Europe's Flimsy Net Neutrality Rules Go Live, Are Actually Worse Than No Rules At All
from the fully-throttled dept
To pass the lame-duck rules, lawmakers bundled them with some actually semi-useful wireless roaming fee reform proposals, then used the latter to sell the entire package. Despite the rules shortcomings, members of the European Parliament were quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done and for being pioneers in the realm of net neutrality:
"This abolition of roaming surcharges has been long awaited by everybody: ordinary people, start-ups, SMEs and all kinds of organisations,” said the rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo before the vote. “Thanks to this agreement, Europe will also become the only region in world which legally guarantees open internet and net neutrality. The principle of net neutrality will be applied directly in the 28 member states. It also ensures that we will not have a two-speed internet."In reality, the EU was rather late to the net neutrality game. And in fact the rules don't prohibit a "two-speed Internet," they actually encourage it. The rules contain numerous, onerous loopholes for things like "specialized services," "class-based discrimination," and fully allow practices like zero rating. The rules even include bizarre provisions allowing ISP throttling and discrimination provided ISPs simply claim it's to address phantom congestion that may or may not have even happened yet, something Sir Tim Berners-Lee complained about in an ignored missive written just before the rules were approved last fall:
"The proposal allows ISPs to prevent “impending” congestion. That means that ISPs can slow down traffic anytime, arguing that congestion was just about to happen. MEPs should vote to close this loophole. If adopted as currently written, these rules will threaten innovation, free speech and privacy, and compromise Europe’s ability to lead in the digital economy. To underpin continued economic growth and social progress, Europeans deserve the same strong net neutrality protections similar to those recently secured in the United States. As a European, and the inventor of the Web, I urge politicians to heed this call.They didn't. In fact, just 50 MEPs out of the European Parliament's total of 751 could be bothered to attend a debate preceding the vote. They also ignored complaints from the likes of BitTorrent, EyeEm, Foursquare, Kickstarter, WordPress, Netflix, Reddit, Transferwise, Vimeo, and the EFF. And while many European politicians and telecom lobbyists like to believe the contentious debate is now behind them, once users in uncompetitive European broadband markets realize they're still unprotected, politicians will be forced to revisit the entire conversation all over again.