One more breach to Net neutrality in Europe: Time to legislate

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Paris, November 19th, 2009 – In Spain, the mobile operator Vodafone is launching a new offer that violates the fundamental principle of Net neutrality. This is one more evidence that the “Telecoms Package“, recently agreed upon by European lawmakers, fails to protect the egalitarian nature of the Internet. Urgent action is needed at the European level to enforce Net neutrality once and for all.

Only a few weeks after the Dutch Internet service provider UPC decided to discriminate Internet traffic1See Dutch ISP heralds end of net neutrality, V3.co.uk: http://www.v3.co.uk/v3/news/2248371/dutch-isp-set-first-europe-net, Vodafone announced yesterday2During the Idate conference held this week in Montpellier, France: http://www.businessmobile.fr/actualites/services/0,39044303,39710864,00.htm that it will prioritize Internet access for its mobile subscribers who are ready to pay an extra fee when the 3G network is congested. This means that instead of equally sharing the network capacity between all users, Vodafone will discriminate against the subscribers who do not pay the extra fee, and deliberately slow them down. Such a business model based on organizing a scarcity of resource instead of investing in more infrastructure is in total contradiction with the nature of Internet as we know it3It could lead to an even more dangerous type of discrimination between service and application providers. See this policy brief by Free Press regarding the harmful effects of prioritization: http://www.freepress.net/files/The_Hidden_Harms_of_Application_Bias.pdf.

While mobile operators face greater capacity constraints than fixed-line Internet providers, reasonable network management practices must be narrowly defined to exclude such abusive and discriminatory practices. This is yet another breach to network neutrality, which proves that mere political statements4Such as the European Commission’s soon-to-be declaration on Net neutrality: http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/Commission_Proposed_Declaration_on_Net_Neutrality_20091105 will not suffice to protect citizens against arbitrary restrictions of their access to the Internet. Strong regulation is needed to guarantee this founding principle of the Internet5See our 22-page dossier Protecting Net Neutrality in Europe: http://laquadrature.net/files/LaQuadratureduNet-DOSSIER_Protecting_Net_Neutrality_in_Europe.pdf.

“Vodafone’s new business model is based on traffic discrimination and clearly violates Net neutrality, which is the very essence of the Internet as we know it. Whereas the United States is on the verge of mandating Net neutrality to both fixed and wireless Internet operators, European lawmakers have left the door open to discriminatory practices by failing to do the same in the Telecoms Package. Vodafone’s announcement shows that business-models based on the discrimination, filtering or prioritization of information flows can flourish in the current regulatory environment. We need strong legal protections aimed at ensuring that the Internet remains an open and egalitarian communications platform.”, concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

References   [ + ]

1. See Dutch ISP heralds end of net neutrality, V3.co.uk: http://www.v3.co.uk/v3/news/2248371/dutch-isp-set-first-europe-net
2. During the Idate conference held this week in Montpellier, France: http://www.businessmobile.fr/actualites/services/0,39044303,39710864,00.htm
3. It could lead to an even more dangerous type of discrimination between service and application providers. See this policy brief by Free Press regarding the harmful effects of prioritization: http://www.freepress.net/files/The_Hidden_Harms_of_Application_Bias.pdf
4. Such as the European Commission’s soon-to-be declaration on Net neutrality: http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/Commission_Proposed_Declaration_on_Net_Neutrality_20091105
5. See our 22-page dossier Protecting Net Neutrality in Europe: http://laquadrature.net/files/LaQuadratureduNet-DOSSIER_Protecting_Net_Neutrality_in_Europe.pdf