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Ex-EU digi supremo Steelie Neelie's net neutrality bid in tatters?

National govts want to row back on 'open internet' law, leaked doc suggests

By Jennifer Baker, 25 Nov 2014

Former EU digital tzar Neelie Kroes’ net neutrality plans for the Continent may be chucked out by national governments.

The latest draft of a law prepared by Italy for national delegations to mull over – a copy of which was leaked by digital rights group EDRi here [PDF] – suggests replacing a definition of net neutrality with a side note alluding to the “objective of net neutrality.” The document says this new approach will allow innovation to flourish.

EDRi head Joe McNamee says the draft waters down proposed protections, claiming that “without meaningful and enforceable net neutrality provisions” the law would achieve exactly the opposite of an open internet.

This latest draft leaves the door open for big online players to strike deals with ISPs for preferential treatment of their content while in transit. This could prove especially attractive for bandwidth-hungry services such as Netflix or YouTube.

According to EDRi, allowing “free” access to certain services and metered access to everything else is “as damaging an infringement” as blocking access to websites.

Advocacy group La Quadrature du Net (QdN) described the revised draft as a “betrayal” and a “slap in the face” to everyone who fought to preserve the open internet. “EU governments are giving in to the shameless lobbying of dominant telecom operators,” said Félix Tréguer, co-founder of QdN.

Under the draft law as it stands, ISPs would be allowed to operate traffic management measures for “temporary congestion control”, block spam and “deliver a service requiring a specific level of quality” such as VoIP or online gaming which require low latency.

The original draft of the law was proposed by the European Commission. The Euro Parliament then introduced some stronger net neutrality measures, but the leaked text from the European Council (made up of representatives from national governments) looks like the MEPs' efforts have been undone. All three bodies must come to a compromise before the so-called Telecoms Package can become law.

However, despite it being years in the making, it may not even make it to “trialogue” discussions as new President of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker is thought to want to throw the whole lot out and start again from scratch. ®

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