No more internet fast lanes: Europe’s strict new net neutrality rules revealed

31 Aug 201628 Shares

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The new guidelines could bring an end to the debate on net neutrality in Europe

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The EU body of European regulators, BEREC, has published strict new rules governing net neutrality and specific internet fast and slow lanes for cloud services and apps.

The nub of the net neutrality issue in the US has been around giant telecoms companies charging exorbitant fees to allow platforms like Netflix, for example, to provide adequate services without being throttled.

The Obama Administration and the net neutrality lobby scored a major victory in June when a panel of federal judges upheld the FCC’s net neutrality rules, to the chagrin of ISPs and major telco giants.

‘After a very long battle, and with the support of half a million people, the principles that make the internet an open platform for change, freedom and prosperity are upheld in the EU’
– THOMAS LOHNINGER, SAVETHEINTERNET.EU

In Europe, net neutrality has been something of a hot potato, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking against net neutrality and creating a fast lane for certain services.

However, according to BEREC, only a limited number of services will be able to ask for special treatment, provided they are not at a detriment to others.

Consumers also have rights to distribute content and access services and apps freely without being slowed down.

Unprecedented response to net neutrality consultation

BEREC published the guidelines this week, along with a consultation report summarising the views of stakeholders.

Illustrating how hot a topic net neutrality is, some 481,547 contributions were received – unprecedented for a BEREC consultation.

The key to understanding net neutrality is to think of the internet as a motorway, with fast lanes and slow lanes. Telcos, which built the networks, strongly believed that they had a right to charge internet platforms such as Facebook, Google or Netflix extra fees for using the faster lanes.

But, in effect, this would create a power vacuum where smaller cloud or internet companies or app providers would be at a serious disadvantage and in time the real loser would be the consumer.

“Based on a preliminary reading of the text, this is a triumph for the European digital rights movement,” said net neutrality activist Thomas Lohninger from SaveTheInternet.eu.

“After a very long battle, and with the support of half a million people, the principles that make the internet an open platform for change, freedom and prosperity are upheld in the EU.”

The development was also welcomed by Joe McNamee, executive director of European Digital Rights, who said: “Europe is now a global standard-setter in the defence of the open, competitive and neutral internet. We congratulate BEREC on its diligent work, its expertise and its refusal to bend to the unreasonable pressure placed on it by the big telecoms lobby.”

Fast lane image via Shutterstock

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com