Time to Kiss Net Neutrality Goodbye In Europe

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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.

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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).

8 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Are we still pretending net neutrality exists in America? As if peering doesn’t exist and folks like netflix aren’t already able to buy faster / extra connections?

    • Angel

      Peering and Net neutrality are two different things. Getting extra/faster connections has nothing to do with prioritizing traffic.

      • Anonymous

        End result to the user is the same: companies can buy faster speeds or connections during congestion.

  2. PirateswinLOL

    This E.U. organization doesn’t seems to be able to do anything right. This is just another good reason to leave this useless and failed experiment.

  3. Hip-Hop-Cracy

    “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.”


    You mean…

    The companies that paid to build out all that infrastructure actually had a clear design to be able to make a profit by selling access to their networks??? Including possibly variable pricing for varied access?!?!?!?!?!

    What’s this abuse?!?!?! NO WAY they should be allowed to do that!!! They MUST BE regulated!!!! Before even more of the massive abuse we all already feel on the internet, every day, increases.

    I mean, what’s next?????

    Are you going to suggest that say, music shouldn’t be price/access regulated?

    Naaaaaaaaahhhhhh…. You wouldn’t be THAT stupid. To dumb to see the blatant hypocrisy in embracing those two mutually opposing views…

  4. Anonymous

    How can we kiss something goodbye if it never existed in the first place?

    I love all the pro net neutrality arguments about how the world was going to freeze over if we didn’t have it. All the while ignoring that we did not actually have it and all these terrible things ISPs were going to do never happened.

  5. DavidB

    Can’t say I really understand net neutrality, but when I see the people who support it, I think I’m against it. And I include in that Saint Tim Berners-Lee. Every day we see more instances of the dangers of the internet in its present form. (Just in the last week, a 15-year old (alleged) hacker came close to destroying one of the UK’s largest companies from his bedroom.) It seems to have been designed without any thought to the possibility that not all its users would be as saintly as Sir Tim, hence its appalling lack of security. If I had been responsible for designing a major part of the system (and yes, I know that TB-L was only involved in the World Wide Web, not the internet as such), I would be keeping a low profile.

    • Tim Wood

      You’re conflating security and net neutrality here. I’ll talk about them separately.

      The original Internet was used for open message and file exchange among trusted parties. However its core strength has always been its extensibility. There are several widely-deployed and effective (to the limit of implementation deficiencies, like Heartbleed) security features at various levels of the Internet, like SSL/TLS, IPSec, DNSSec, OAuth, VPNs, 2FA, application signing and more. A failure of will on the part of ISPs and businesses that don’t understand, or don’t take seriously, or don’t want to “burden” customers with, modern security practices instead of weak ones like passwords, mostly accounts for poor security posture on the Internet.

      I have some sympathy for ISPs’ recovering their investment through pricing flexibility. I think the right balance has been struck so far with the modified common-carrier model the FCC settled on last year.