Protecting net neutrality — an update on the recent proposals of the European Parliament

On 3 April 2014, a clear majority of the European Parliament voted in favour of measures aimed at guaranteeing the openness of the internet. This latest ‘net neutrality’ proposal, should it become law, will see internet service providers (ISPs) barred from blocking or slowing down selected services for economic or other reasons. MEPs also voted to ban roaming charges for using a mobile phone in another EU country. These moves to further open up the telecommunications market, and strengthen the EU single-market principle, will put the EU at odds with the US, where a US Federal Appeals Court recently struck down rules adopted by the US Federal Communication Commission to preserve a neutral and non-discriminatory internet.

Network neutrality, or ‘net neutrality’, is the principle that access to internet content and applications should be ‘neutral’ — that is ‘that traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, independent of the sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application’. The principle is rooted in the idea that information networks, such as the internet, are most efficient and useful to the public when less focused on a particular audience and instead accommodating to multiple users.

The European Commission estimates that about 100 million people have suffered restrictions on internet usage, such as the blocking of free chat apps such as Skype or WhatsApp by companies that offer rival services…

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