Friday

22nd Sep 2017

Focus

Loose words sink EU net neutrality bill

  • Many are unconvinced that the text will safeguard an open internet (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU officials jubilantly announced a deal on setting internet rules and ending roaming surcharges early Tuesday morning but the details of the deal contain several loose ends.

Many are unconvinced that the text will safeguard an open internet. And even the promise that roaming surcharges will end by 15 June 2017 - a move that made headlines across Europe - will depend on an additional decision to be made by the European Commission in the next 19 months.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

An end to roaming surcharges while abroad in another EU country, means that the price for calling, texting, and using the Internet, should be the same as at home.

But those prices are not uniform across the EU.

What if someone from member state X buys a subscription plan from country Y –where the prices are lower than in X – and then starts using that plan to call and tweet in country X?

To prevent these “abusive uses”, the agreed legislative text will allow telecommunication providers to adopt “fair use policies” and charge the consumer if it is using more than what is considered fair use.

The text noted that “the roaming provider shall send a notification to the roaming customer when the applicable fair use volume of regulated roaming consumption is reached”.

The negotiators did not specify what volume of data and calls constitutes fair use. Instead, they agreed that European Commission will, after consultation with telecom regulating agency Berec, adopt “by 15 December 2016, detailed rules on the application of fair use policy”.

In its definition of fair use, the commission is told to take into account several factors including the evolution of pricing patterns in member takes and possible distortion of competition.

Brussels-based consumer organisation BEUC called the agreement an “unambitious deal”.

“We cannot call it the end of roaming when there are in-built exceptions to allow providers to charge consumers when they go abroad if they fear it’s too costly”, the statement said.

Net neutrality - major loopholes

But the text’s major loopholes are on the principle of net neutrality.

While the agreement promises that it will “safeguard equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic in the provision of internet access services”, several critics are not so sure that the text is legally sound.

Some of the language is clear:

“Providers of internet access services shall treat all traffic equally, when providing internet access services, without discrimination, restriction or interference, and irrespective of the sender and receiver, the content accessed or distributed, the applications or services used or provided, or the terminal equipment used.”

However, the text also said internet providers “shall be free to offer services other than internet access services which are optimised for specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, where the optimisation is necessary in order to meet requirements of the content, applications or services for a specific level of quality.”

These other services are also known as “specialised services”, and they could be for example long-distance operations via internet, or self-driving cars communicating with each other via internet to avoid crashed.

This distinction creates “the opposite of net neutrality”, Austrian Green MEP Michel Reimon told this website, adding that he believes net neutrality in the EU is “dead”.

“We now have an open internet – which is neutral – and another internet which is not neutral – the specialised services. Which means the Internet is not neutral.”

Not quite net neutrality

“What Europe is essentially saying here is that all internet data is born equal, but some is more equal than others,” said consumer organisation BEUC.

Dutch MP Kees Verhoeven is also worried.

In 2012, the Netherlands became the first European country, and second in the world, to enshrine net neutrality in the law.

Verhoeven was one of the main driving forces behind the bill.

He told this website he sees a risk that Europe will have “not quite net neutrality” because the exceptions are formulated unclearly.

“It is vague what precisely constitutes 'specialised services'. The European Commission names as examples IPTV, high-definition videoconferencing or healthcare services like telesurgery. But will there be more?”.

Verhoeven said there is a “realistic risk” that the EU regulation will “in practice be a weakening of the Dutch variant”.

EU telecom watchdog plan dead on arrival

The European Commission wants to upgrade the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications into an agency, but both the parliament and member states are against it.

Visual Data

The Merkelisation of Europe

Angela Merkel, the EU's most powerful leader, is running for a fourth time in Germany's election on Sunday. But what has changed in Europe over the 12 years of her chancellorship?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  2. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  3. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  5. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  6. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  9. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  10. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  11. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  12. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  2. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  3. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package
  4. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  5. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  6. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  7. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  8. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  9. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  10. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change
  11. European Free AllianceSave The Date!! 26.09 - Coppieters Awards To... Carme Forcadell
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Grave Concern Over Rise in Antisemitism in Poland