Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Focus

Brussles to tackle online blocking and throttling

  • The Commission's proposals are expected before the end of the year (Photo: hdzimmermann)

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes is to draft legislation on 'net neutrality' following data that between 20 and 50 percent of European Internet providers use software to block online access.

In a press statement released on Tuesday (29 May), she said the regulators had "provided the data I was waiting for."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Her move comes after a report by a group of national Internet regulators (Berec) revealed that a sizeable minority of Europeans have broadband contracts that give operators the power to limit access to services like Voip (voice over Internet Protocol) or file-sharing.

Meanwhile, the regulators found that 49 of the 266 fixed network operators and 41 of the 115 mobile networks had reported restrictions on peer-to-peer traffic.

"Given that Berec's findings highlight a problem of effective consumer choice, I will prepare recommendations to generate more real choices and end the net neutrality waiting game in Europe," said Kroes.

"For the first time we know that at least 20 percent, and potentially up to half of EU mobile broadband users have contracts that allow their Internet service provider to restrict services like Voip or peer-to-peer file sharing."

In its report, Berec took evidence from over 400 Internet operators, as well as consumer and industry associations. It saw that the blocking and "throttling" of peer-to-peer traffic and Voip traffic were the most common restrictions on fixed and mobile networks.

Bandwitdth throttling is the intenional slowing down of Internet service for targeted websites.

The European Commission launched the inquiry in April 2011 in a bid to acquire information about specific cases of manipulation of online traffic. The commission also indicated that evidence uncovered by Berec would form the basis of Internet policy making.

Demands for net neutrality follow concerns that Internet service providers use blocking or throttling tactics to restrict their users' communication and access to certain online products and services and instead promote services offered by themselves or partner companies.

Jeremie Zimmerman, spokesman for Internet freedom group La Quadrature du Net, said: "The Berec study clearly shows, telecoms operators are increasingly restricting their users' communications. Specific ports or protocols are often blocked, without adequate justification, and partner-services are being privileged at the expense of the rest of the Internet."

He added the commission should take steps to "ban operators from using the word 'Internet' if they block, throttle or charge differently for specific Internet services and applications."

Kroes has been keen to avoid member states introducing their own national rules on net neutrality, fearing this would lead to a fragmented rule-book and slow down the creation of a digital single market. Her home country, the Netherlands, is among several EU states to have national provisions on the issue.

Commission sources indicated that draft proposals will be adopted by the EU executive before the end of 2012.

Any moves to establish the principle of net neutrality are expected to be supported by the European Parliament. In November 2011, MEPs backed a resolution calling on the commission to assess the need for new regulation on web neutrality within six months of Berec publishing its findings.

The report also revealed that most service providers offer Internet services that are not subject to restrictions, however. The latest Berec figures say that 85 percent of all fixed Internet service providers and 76 percent of all mobile Internet providers propose at least one unrestricted offer.

But Kroes is demanding better customer information.

"Consumers also need to know if they are getting champagne or lesser sparkling wine. If it is not full Internet, it shouldn't be marketed as such; perhaps it shouldn't be marketed as 'Internet' at all, at least not without any upfront qualification," she said.

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.

Battle lines drawn up in EU row on Acta

The European Commission has stepped into the growing row over the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, Acta, as leading MEPs refuse to fast-track parliamentary approval due to bad faith in talks.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

Investigation

How the Italian mafia found a Dutch home

One of the biggest mafia trials in Europe in recent years is about to end. Members of the Crupi clan are accused of smuggling vast amounts of cocaine from South America to Italy, using the Netherlands as their main hub.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  2. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  3. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  4. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  6. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  7. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  8. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  10. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  11. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  12. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People