The European Parliament takes important step to enshrine net neutrality into law

Today the European Parliament voted on the Telecoms Single Market proposal, a major legislative achievement protecting net neutrality that will have a crucial impact on how European users experience the internet for generations.

Members of the European Parliament today rejected measures put forward by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), and instead adopted most of the much improved amendments introduced by the Liberals, the Socialists, the Greens and the European United Left.

An end to network discrimination in Europe

The text adopted today introduces comprehensive measures preserving the open internet by providing a clear and binding definition of network neutrality. It also provides safeguards against different forms of network discrimination by prohibiting the blocking or throttling of content and services, while also preventing anti-competitive commercial agreements. The adopted provisions ensure that traffic management measures are conducted only when necessary, proportionate, temporary, targeted, transparent and in accordance with the law.

Last, the amendments adopted today address one of the core flaws of the ITRE proposal, by closing the “specialised services” loophole. The definition of “specialised services” put forth by the European Commission and the ITRE text was far too broad, and would have given ISPs and telcos even more market power than they already have. In today’s vote, the European Parliament stopped telecoms operators from becoming online content and services gatekeepers.

However, one last improvement can be brought to the text adopted today, as the article laying down clear measures for implementation and enforcement of the net neutrality principle was not adopted.

A net neutral continent

Today, the European Parliament seized the opportunity to enshrine net neutrality into EU law. For the past four years, Parliamentarians have advocated for binding net neutrality (see here and here), and today they took action, making a clear choice to protect internet users’ freedom of expression while ensuring innovation and competition in the Digital Single Market. Today’s vote preserves the universal, dynamic, and transformative nature of the internet.

Next steps

The Telecoms Single Market proposal will now be reviewed by the Council of  the European Union. The Council representatives are expected to adopt a final position on the Telecoms regulation later in 2014. Access Now urges the Council not to deviate from the position adopted today by the European Parliament. The Council must maintain the necessary safeguards to protect net neutrality and prohibit network discrimination in Europe. This includes ensuring that this principle can be effectively enforced.

Getting to this point has not been easy. Access Now wishes to thank all the members who took part in the campaign to save the internet in Europe. Today’s result would not have been possible without their action!