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Joint Civil-Society Statement Addresses Net Neutrality in Europe

Paris, 2 may 2016 — In a joint letter, 73 organisations from 31 countries call on the European Telecom Regulators to uphold net neutrality in their current negotiations about the future of the Internet in Europe.

After 2 years the EU adopted a net neutrality law which leaves many core questions up for interpretation. The Telecom Single Market regulation was adopted in October 2015 in second reading in the European Parliament.

The Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communication (BEREC) and the 28 telecom regulators are currently negotiating guidelines that clarify the recently adopted ambigous European net neutrality law. The regulators have time until August 2016 to publish their final guidelines and will hold a public consultation in June to July.

Europe is in the final stages of the fight for net neutrality. Whether zero-rating, DPI and paid prioritization are allowed for half a billion people depends on the final guidelines that will be published late August 2016. Europe could either follow the global trend towards strong safeguards or set a dangerous precedent.

"This is important that BEREC's guidelines lay the foundations for a neutral and open internet for the upcoming years. This is the only way to ensure fundamental freedoms" says Agnès de Cornulier, Legal and Policy Analysis Coordinator at La Quadrature du Net.

The letter from 73 NGOs calls on the telecom regulators to consider:

  • So called "specialised services" which risk becoming paid fast lanes that circumvent all net neutrality safeguards.They should be tightly defined to only cover services which are technically not possible over the open internet;
  • Interpreting the EU regulation as banning application-specific Zero-Rating because it is a harmful practice that restricts consumer choice, perpetuates less expensive low data volumes and distorts competition;
  • Traffic management should be as application-agnostic as possible. When telecom companies decide about the priority of data packages this risks discriminating against services, including encrypted traffic, harming user choice.

The legal text can be read to both allow and prohibit paid fast-lanes, zero-rating or privacy-intrusive traffic managment forms like Deep Packet Inspection. Basically the legislator kicked the can down the road and now the unelected regulators have to decide on the future of Europe's Internet. This is essential to keep pressuring the telecom regulators in order to ensure the interests of European internet users and this despite the major failings of the process. Besides this public warning, La Quadrature du Net and the other organizations which signed this letter invite internet users to report violations of net neutrality they could have observed on the website respectmynet.eu and to take part in the public consultation available on the website savetheinternet.eu and this in order to alleviate the weaknesses of this European regulation and to enlight regulators.

Read also the letter of the 73 organizations addressed to the BEREC.
See also EDRI's analysis.