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7th Dec 2019

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Demand for web neutrality law following IP blocking tactics

Leading Internet freedom group La Quadrature du Net has reiterated its demands for an EU web neutrality law following last week’s disclosure that European Internet operators regularly use traffic management techniques to block access to certain online services.

BEREC, the body of national telecoms regulators across the EU, last week (6 March) submitted its first report on Internet traffic management practices to the European Commission.

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  • Internet campaign group La Quadrature wants an EU web neutrality law after research revealed blocking tactics by web operators (Photo: Cyrus Farivar)

Based on responses from over 400 Internet operators, as well as consumer and industry associations, the regulator reported the widespread practice of blocking and throttling of peer-to-peer traffic and Voice over IP traffic, usually done through deep packet inspection, a computer network device that examines data and content as it is routed.

In a statement issued on Monday (12th March), Jeremie Zimmerman, spokesman for La Quadrature, said that BEREC’s findings “prove that EU operators impose unjustifiable restrictions to Internet access on both fixed and mobile networks”.

Attacking Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes for what he termed a “laissez faire approach on Net neutrality”, he added that Kroes should come forward with proposals for “an EU-wide law on net neutrality to ensure that freedoms online, but also innovation and competition in the digital economy, are protected.”

La Quadrature wants the legal definition of the Internet in the EU to be based on the neutrality principle and applicable to all Internet networks in the EU. It also wants lawmakers to regulate the use of packet inspection technologies in order to safeguard data privacy and electronic communications.

In November 2011, MEPs in the European Parliament backed a resolution on Internet neutrality which called on the Commission to assess the need for new regulation on web neutrality within six months of BEREC publishing their findings.

The resolution also urged the EU executive to “ensure that Internet service providers do not block, discriminate against, impair or degrade the ability of any person to use a service to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer any content, application or service of their choice.”

Meanwhile, EU telecommunications ministers in December adopted conclusions emphasising the need to “preserve the open and neutral character of the Internet and consider net neutrality as a policy objective.”

Several EU countries, including Commissioner Kroes’ native member state, the Netherlands, have already enshrined the principle of net neutrality in domestic law.

BEREC’s full report is expected to be published in the coming weeks, with the regulator adding in a press statement that it also intends to release a report on Internet competition and a set of guidelines on minimum service quality requirements this summer.

In justifying their practices, the most common claims by operators were that they were seeking to control ‘spam’ traffic or to manage their networks to block video streaming and offer favoured applications and services.

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