Net Neutrality: Improvements Are Still Possible

Paris, 16 July 2015 — European Parliament's ITRE commission endorses the compromise adopted during the trialogue on 30 June regarding the regulation on telecommunications. Despite the improvements brought to the text compared to the Council's version, the regulation still contains loopholes and inaccuracies that could violate people's and SME's rights.

The ITRE commission of the European Parliament adopted the compromise text of the trialogue of last 30 June which presents non-negligible improvements and ensure an equal and non-discriminatory traffic management while providing Internet access services. This evolution has been fiercely fought against by the Council who opposed, until the end, any mention to the expression "Net Neutrality" in the text.

The European Parliament has worked very hard to keep a text protecting rights and innovation. Despite its efforts, a number of loopholes or ambiguities remain:

  • The guarantees on specialised services only appear in the recitals and not in the text itself. This leaves a large margin of appreciation to the regulating authorities and thus a risk of a non-uniform implementation regarding the countries 1.
  • Price discrimination and "zero rating" practices are not mentioned in the text and two interpretations are possible: either those practices are not covered by the regulation and it will be to Member States and regulating authorities to legislate on this, or those practices are covered and not especially forbidden which would be an unacceptable violation to the neutrality principle.

Moreover, a point raises major concerns: censorship through administrative blocking of websites, to which La Quadrature du Net is strongly opposed, is authorised in the text. We call on MEPs to put an end to this judicial circumvention in the final text, as it potentially carries major infringements of freedom of speech.

"This compromise is more positive than what the Council's position could have let us hope for, but its imperfections could be leaving too much room to the telecom companies to circumvent Net Neutrality. The leeway given to the regulating authorities on the regulation's interpretation leaves concerns on an heterogeneous implementation which could disadvantage some citizens and SMEs and would go against the Digital Single Market wanted by the European Commission. Few amendments proposed by MEPs before the plenary vote could fill the loopholes in this text and return to a balance beneficial for everyone as well as for the innovation and digital development in the European Union" said Agnès de Cornulier, policy and legal analysis coordinator at La Quadrature du Net.

See our analysis on La Quadrature du Net's wiki

See the co-signed analysis written by EDRI, Access, Bits of Freedom and IT Politisk Forening

  • 1. The conditions for the implementation of specialised services, among which some are not defined in the recitals, are the following:
    • The optimisation must be necessary to ensure specific features of the content, applications or services for a specific level of quality
    • The general capacity of the network must be sufficient in order to provide those services beside an access to the Internet
    • Those services must not be provided as a substitution to an Internet access service
    • The specific quality of service level must not be assured by internet access service (recital)
    • The optimisation must be necessary to ensure a specific quality to one or more features of the content, of the application or the service (recital)
    • The optimisation must not be a mean for the prioritisation of a content, of an application or a similar service on the Internet, thus circumventing the provisions on traffic management (recital)