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Finalization of EU Parliament's Weak Net Neutrality Resolution

Paris, October 17th, 2011 – The European Parliament is finalizing the negotiation of “compromise amendments” to its resolution on Net neutrality. At this point, the weak text binds the Parliament to the failed “wait-and-see” approach of EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, which amounts to letting operators restrict Internet access to pursue short terms economic goals. The resolution could however bring a proper definition of Net neutrality and increase the pressure on the Commission to investigate telecoms operators' behaviour and take action.

The Industry committee (ITRE) of the EU Parliament will hold a vote on a resolution on Net neutrality on Thursday, October 20th1. "Compromise amendments" are currently being finalized in negotiations between the various political groups. They will likely become the final text of this non-legislative resolution.

Attempts by former rapporteur of the "Telecoms Package", Malcolm Harbour, to include mentions of copyright in the definition of Net neutrality so far appear to have been successfully countered2. However, it is still possible that telecoms industry lobbyists manage, at the last minute, to neutralize the resolution's already weak text.

What may be left in the compromise amendments is, among other things, a useful definition of Net neutrality. If adopted, an amendment would call on the Commission to "guard that Internet Service Providers do not block, discriminate against, impair, or degrade the ability of any person to use a broadband service to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer any content, application, or service of their choice".

The resolution could therefore provide clear criteria to the Commission and the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC), who will have to gather evidence regarding operators' traffic management practices. Still, the conservative group (EPP) is working hard to keep any mention of regulation out of the final text, which may not even make a timid reference to a need for further legislative action.

“Despite EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes ‘wait and see’ approach, evidence of Internet access restrictions is already widely available, as illustrated by the reporting platform RespectMyNet.eu platform3. Citizens and the Parliament should use evidence of blocking or throttling of Internet communications to increase pressure on the Commission and BEREC, so that they break away from their guilty inaction and adopt concrete measures to protect Net neutrality and defend our freedoms online.”, says Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

  • 1. See http://www.laquadrature.net/en/will-the-european-parliament-give-up-on-protecting-a-free-internet
  • 2. In a letter to the Members of the ITRE, Malcolm Harbour suggested the following wording: “Welcomes the communication of the Commission and agrees with the analysis, in particular on the necessity to preserve the open and neutral character of the internet as a key driver for innovation and consumer demand while ensuring that the Internet can continue to provide high-quality services in a framework that promotes and respects fundamental rights such as intellectual property rights, freedom of expression and freedom to conduct business and calls on the European Commission to guard that internet service providers do not block, discriminate against, impair, or degrade the ability of any person to use a broadband service to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer any lawful content, application, or service made available via the Internet of their choice irrespective of source or target;”. Fortunately, “Intellectual property” and “lawful“ do not appear in the last version of the compromise amendments. Updated text: old wording striked out and replacement wording underlined.
  • 3. www.RespectMyNet.eu