Net Neutrality: letter to the ministers in charge

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La Quadrature du Net sent a letter to the French ministers in charge of the Telecoms Package to ask them to protect Net neutrality in the European Union, as they enter into final negotiations regarding this major reform.

Here is an english translation you can adapt to the context of your Member State:

Dear Minister,

In the next few weeks, representatives from both the European Parliament and the European Union Council will meet in a Conciliation committee to find a compromise on the directives composing the Telecoms Package.

As you know, however, a contentious amendment – said “amendment 138” – is source of concern for the Council. This amendment only provides, and the French Constitutional Council concurs, that “no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities”.

Yet, wording pushed by Telecoms operators like AT&T during the second reading of the Telecoms package represents an even more fundamental stake. Located in Articles 20.1.b and 21.3.b of the Universal Service Directive, it allows for “conditions limiting access to and/or use of services and applications”. These articles as they stand dangerously harm Net neutrality, a founding principle of the Internet.

Net neutrality ensures that users face no conditions limiting access to applications and services. Likewise, it rules out any discrimination against the source, destination or actual content of the data transmitted over the network. Or, in the words of Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, it is “the freedom of connection; with any application; to any party”. Net neutrality means that every citizen, regardless of his or her financial capacities or social status, can equally participate in the production and distribution of information and knowledge. The concept of “innovation without a permit”, where every small actor can innovate and compete with the incumbent giants, also depends on this very principle of neutrality.

Wary that some telecom operators and content industries could develop business-models based on the prioritization of certain information flows, the United States administration announced that it would mandate Net neutrality to both broadband and wireless Internet providers. Europe must do the same. As the conciliation committee negotiates the final text of the Telecoms package directives, European lawmakers must get rid of the anti-Net neutrality phrasing of Articles 20.1.b and 21.3.b of the Universal Service Directive, and amend the Framework directive to make Net neutrality a fundamental regulatory principle in the European telecommunications market.