EU Adopts ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules, Keeps Loopholes Open

The European Parliament adopted Europe's first net neutrality rules today, as part of the new telecoms package. However, many net neutrality proponents see the new regulation as a loss rather than a win, as it leaves the door open for widespread throttling and paid prioritization.

throttleThe European Parliament has debated the issue of net neutrality for several years.

The results of these negotiations were included in the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) regulation, which went to a vote this afternoon in Strasbourg.

With support of a majority the rules were passed, as expected. This means that the new rules will become law, replacing existing network neutrality laws in member states of the EU.

However, four proposed amendments that would close various loopholes all failed, much to the disappointment of net neutrality experts and activists.

As a result Europe’s ‘net neutrality’ rules are rather week, allowing prioritized paid services (so-called fast lanes), and slowing down of torrent and VPN traffic, among other things.

This is especially disappointing for member states that have strong net neutrality rules in place, such as the Netherlands and Slovenia, as they may have to implement watered down versions now.

“The European Parliament has avoided making decisions on all crucial points,” Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights, comments on the decision.

“Now, national regulators will have to decide – on abuses imposed through ‘zero rating’, on rules on congestion management, on specialized services and so on,” he adds.

Julia Reda, MEP for the Pirate Party, is disappointed with the vote and hopes that Europeans will hold their elected representatives responsible.

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Over the past several weeks many activist groups and digital rights experts supported the SaveTheInternet campaign which encouraged European citizens to share their concerns while asking their representatives to vote in favor of the amendments.

The efforts received widespread support, but not enough to have the majority of parliament members vote for the proposed changes.

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