European Parliament has finally passed a long-debated telecoms law that comes with amendments clearly defining and imposing net neutrality. The amendments proposed collectively by the Socialist, Liberal, Green and Left groups, obliges all providers of any sort of internet service to treat internet traffic equally. However, industry opponents did succeed in having some loopholes inserted in the body of the law.
The new law will put an end to the roaming charges that mobile operators apply to cross-border usage of their services, defining the European Union as a single and unified market for telecom operations. It has now been taken forward to the final stage before becoming effective where representatives of EU member states will review and, hopefully, approve the rules by the end of 2014.
According to the new law, net neutrality is defined as “the principle according to which all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, independently of its sender, recipient, type, content, device, service or application” (Amendment 234).
However, telecom companies are allowed to classify and thus treat differently commercially favoured web services called “specialized services”. To the relief of net neutrality defenders, the law also defines what constitutes a specialized service: “… an electronic communications service optimized for specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, provided over logically distinct capacity, relying on strict admission control, offering functionality requiring enhanced quality from end to end, and that is not marketed or usable as a substitute for internet access service” (Amendment 235).
Industry opposition argue that the new rules will prevent them developing new, customized services. Lobby groups, on the other hand, had pushed for stricter measures to protect against the flexible interpretation of ‘special services’ by companies. They are now switching their focus to national representatives of the European Council to amend the position of the law accordingly, also introducing ‘enforcement’ clauses which the present text lacks.
The current package of amendments to the existing internet regulations was first proposed by the European Council in September 2013.