The European Parliament voted NO to new rules that would protect and safeguard ‘Net Neutrality’ in the European Union.
MEPs ended up voting against the amendments that had been tabled to preserve and protect the notion of ‘Net Neutrality. The outcome of the vote could have a massive impact on the future of the internet.
The idea behind Net Neutrality is the concept that all internet traffic be treated equally regardless of content. In theory, the amendments would have ensured the internet continued to function just as it is in its current form.
Why would we need legislation to just keep the internet as it is?
That’s a really good question. The idea of Net Neutrality is that all the data that is bussed around the internet travels at the same speed and gets to its destination at the same time regardless of who sends or transports that data. i.e., whether it’s someone watching Netflix, or a company like Amazon holding a conference call.
Campaigners who have harshly criticised the no vote are concerned that the existing regulations are too vague and many worry that it will be easy for internet firms to strike deals with content providers which may not be advantageous for everyone.
Woah, this could actually really affect me…
Yes, it could.
The answer resides in the fact that certain Internet Service Providers and other ‘big money’ corporations would like to see the creation of a tiered internet.
The problem is that it’s really quite easy for ISPs to give certain types of traffic priority over others. ISPs could, in theory, charge more for video streaming websites, such as Netflix, to use the example again, to ensure their data gets to where it is without buffering or delays, while perhaps making a rival streaming company’s traffic data almost unwatchable.
For big video streaming companies, it’s serious cause for concern. Should the current form of net neutrality change, different companies could find themselves suddenly handing over a lot more money to ISPs than they had previously, and the biggest companies could pay more priority access to gain a monopolistic dominance over the internet. No one wants this, unless you happen to live in China.
Campaigners and interest groups also warned that ‘zero-rating’ agreements where customers have unlimited access to certain sites outside their data packages will become more widespread.
Several large internet based companies had urged MEPS to adopt the amendments to the current legislation, including Kickstarter, Netflix and Reddit. They claimed that current regulations are too vague, ambiguous, and open to interpretation and abuse.
Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web had also urged MEPs to vote through the amendments claiming that failure to so will stifle innovation and monetise the internet.
3 EU countries, including the Netherlands have already enshrined Net Neutrality into domestic law.
Seems like a pretty dumb move on the part of the EU parliament?
Yes, it does. But if you can step back and look at the bigger picture, you can understand the reasoning behind it. For years the EU parliament have been trying to amend the regulations regarding ‘roaming charges’ for mobile phone users. Many MEPs were worried, apparently, that by adopting the Net Neutrality amendments they would risk yet another delay in the abolition of roaming charges.
In some respects the difference is in marked contrast to the US where even there, Net Neutrality has been given regulatory protection.
Time will tell just how the new rule affect the internet for users in the EU.