Net Neutrality: Major Setback for Free and Open Internet

Strasbourg, 27 October 2015 — Today, the European Parliament voted the Telecommunication Single Market regulation text by 500 votes against 163, hereby ending the negotiations on this matter. Despite numerous citizen's calls, despite repeated international calls to support the amendments, including Tim Berners-Lee's, this ambiguous text leaves important loopholes and cannot ensure Net Neutrality1. Worst, it allows commercial discrimination. It is a profound disillusion for all those who, throughout the years, battled to ensure Net Neutrality in Europe.

Before 2014's European elections, MEPs were firm and voted a very positive text to protect Net Neutrality, citizens' rights and innovation for all. The Council of the EU (that is to say the heads of Member States) and the Commission's strain, the urge to finish all those years of negotiations and the lack of convictions and sense of common interest lead to choose a spineless consensus: to reach an agreement at all costs and to settle the issue of roaming (a symbolic measure, but only affecting a small portion of EU citizens).

A handful of MEPs have had the courage to defend till the end their positions on Net Neutrality, and we greet them. The others gave in to fatigue and this must be remembered.

The adopted text doesn't include a clear definition of Net Neutrality, leaving non-marginal room for manoeuvre to the European regulator to establish guidelines applicable in Member States. It is thus a text full of uncertainties that will be applied and whose practical modalities will only be established in technical negotiations done behind closed doors, without transparency and with little recourses for citizens.

Negotiations within the BEREC2 must be transparent. Regulators must, without further delay, elaborate clear rules strongly upholding Net Neutrality principles. Regulators must also take the necessary steps to rigorously apply these principles, in order to reduce the weaknesses of the text voted today. The risk that they leave an open wide way allowing telcos to abuse their dominant position is high.

"Today MEPs had the chance to stand their ground against the Council and the Commission but they only showed a timid face in front of the threats to abandon the text or prolongation of the negotiations. By voting this incomplete and non-protective text, they sell off citizens' rights and liberties and they also hamper small and innovative companies, in favour of big telecommunication companies. They also give a bad signal on their weakness, thus endangering all future negotiations. The task to mend the text's loopholes left by the MEPs now rests on governments deprived of transparency, at the risk of widening them even more, until Justice intervenes and long lasting judiciary procedures set out an uncertain precedence." said Agnès de Cornulier, Legal and Policy Analysis Coordinator at La Quadrature Du Net.

Once again, La Quadrature du Net wholeheartedly thanks and greets the numerous citizens, organisations and elected representatives that took part in this campaign.

  • 1. Net Neutrality is a cornerstone principle of the Internet which guarantees that telecoms operators remain mere transmitters of information and do not discriminate between their users' communications. It ensures that all users, whatever their resources, can access the same network in its entirety.
  • 2. The BEREC is the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications