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

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 traffic1, Vodafone announced yesterday2 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 it3.

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 statements4 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 Internet5.

"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.