A free, unfettered internet sounds fantastic in theory, but its execution could be muddled by complicated legislation and exception-wrangling in Europe. Case in point: members of European Parliament have now officially voted against a number of amendments designed to block net neutrality loopholes, a development that could enable misuse of ‘fast lanes,’ ‘zero-rating’ for high-paying apps and services, and other preferential exceptions.
“This principle of net neutrality has kept the Internet a free and open space since its inception.”
The four amendments, designed to protect against DMCA-style loopholes, were rejected against heavy protest from figures like Tim Berners-Lee, an original founder of the World Wide Web who urged legislators to consider the early spirit that propelled the internet explosion. “The Web evolved into a powerful and ubiquitous platform because I was able to build it on an open network that treated all packets of information equally,” Berners-Lee blogged. “This principle of net neutrality has kept the Internet a free and open space since its inception.”
Others supporting the amendments included Netflix, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy and BitTorrent, among a long list of others.
The ‘fast lane’ concept has received heightened attention, with debates now intensifying over what exactly should be prioritized. Critical medical services, self-driving cars, and other core areas deserve special access, though the recent rejection heightens fears that not-so-critical exceptions and loopholes will be available to high-paying bidders. ISPs unsurprisingly favor those measures, arguing that prioritized access and flexibility are important for traffic management and infrastructure development.
Indeed, the latest rejection ensures that ISPs have the flexibility to throttle traffic and prioritize certain ‘lanes,’ and level of power that could be abused.
Then, there are ‘zero-rating’ exceptions, which allow ISPs to grant customers ‘free’ use of certain apps and services by not counting them against data plan usage. In practice, that could offer big-budgeted streaming music services like Apple Music and Spotify a massive advantage over more scrappy (but innovative) upstarts.
Images by Greg Grossmeier, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).