The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Net Neutrality

Anyone involved in the industry today will know of the powerful technical capabilities now in the hands of those telecoms companies. Deep packet inspection and traffic management systems make blocking, prioritisation, discrimination of different types of traffic not only possible, but happening. The neutrality on which the Internet is based - and which is indeed essential for the proper functioning of a communications network - is under threat, and our policy-makers are spineless in the face of large commercial interests.

When one writes about this subject of net neutrality, it is impossible to ignore these factors. Indeed, I believe that policy writing which fails to tackle them, would lack credibiility. This section will therefore discuss the threats to the Internet posed by these counter-neutral technologies, and their policy implications. And it will take a critical look at the politicking of the people in power in the EU.

Until 2009, the European Union did not have a policy on net neutrality. The reason why net neutrality  is now on the EU policy agenda, is a direct result of events that occurred during  the 2009 Telecoms Package process. Pressure  from citizens groups forced the issue in the European Parliament. The rapporteur, Catherine Trautmann played a tight hand  with the other EU institutions, which resulted in an instruction to the Commission. 

The outcome was a public seminar on net neutrality and  consultation process, which invited responses from citizen stakeholders as well as industry. So far, so good. However, the process was   criticised as a cosmetic exercise, and the Commission's response as a weak sop to the dominant telecoms  industry lobbyists.

Since then the policy has moved on, and in 2014  the European Parliament adopted a series of provisions that sought to enshrine net neutrality into EU law. AS a consequence of those provisions,  a new political battle within the EU has begun. It won't end without bitter recriminations and some digital blood letting. This political battle that looks set to be the determining one fo rthis issue, and there are  many economic factors at stake.

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in net neutrality and its implications for copyright enforcement policy, you may like my books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

Proposed joint EU-US rules for the telecommunications industry pose a threat to net neutrality and to citizens' rights in general. Drafts leaked earlier this week of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Parnership (TTIP ) telecoms chapter,   indicate that  powers of regulators such as Ofcom could be neutered, and any action that a regulator might take could be challenged by industry. This is a serious matter for Europe, where US telecoms companies have been lobbying for a re-structuring of the European telecoms industry, and it extends the corporate threat from TTIP that has been highlighted in other sectors.

Read more: TTIP leaks: telecoms proposals threaten net neutrality & citizens rights

A new EU telecoms law adopted on Tuesday (27 October 2015) should mean lower mobile Internet bills for travellers but threatens also to ride roughshod over net neutrality – or does it? We know there has been a political deal but what does it really mean for policy-makers.

Read more: EU drops the net neutrality principle – will it mean content restrictions?

 Will the Internet's future be decided by politics and not by principle?

 The European Parliament will take a crucial vote on net neutrality in a couple of hours' time. From the debate this morning, the political undertones of this vote are coming out. What is clear is that the Parliament allowed itself to be pressured by the Council of Ministers. That is not good for European democracy. Nor is it good for the Internet.

Read more: EU net neutrality – how political is this decision?

Tomorrow a crucial vote in the European Parliament will decide whether Europe supports the principle of net neutrality. A proposal will be put before the Parliament that is headed 'open internet access' and will be touted as protecting net neutrality. However, it is highly contoversial, because it threatens to open the door to zero-rating of content. Amendments have been tabled that would protect net neutrality and their acceptance could be crucial for the future of the Internet.

The Parliament has the choice to doff its cap to the Council of ministers or to stand up for itself as a democratic institution and support its own position.

Read more: Net neutrality or zero rating? Tomorrow's EU vote will decide

We fixed net neutrality -  says who?

 EU officials are claiming to have ‘fixed’ net neutrality after a late night session to thrash out a deal on telecoms. From what can be ascertained, the deal gets rid of roaming charges on mobile phones, in return for the network operators – fixed and mobile – being allowed to do preferential deals over content inside bandwidth caps – so-called  zero-rating.  The EU has been wanting to abolish roaming charges for some time, against resistance from the network operators, who would lose revenue. It  seems that zero-rating is the political quid pro quo, and if it is so, then we are witnessing a clever piece of smoke and mirrors.

Read more: EU officials after-midnight deal to fix net neutrality - but have they really done it?

International talks on a secret deal over trade in services threaten to overturn to net neutrality policies currently on the table on both sides of the Atlantic.  Instead, back-room negotiators could put in place an international framework that leaves the door open for restrictive behaviour by the telecommunications companies that run the Internet.

Read more: Will TISA endeavours wipe net neutrality?

After much anticipation, the EU Council of Ministers released its  net neutrality mandate last week.  The announcement follows some  highly political back-room  wrangling, which has resulted in a text – seen by Iptegrity -  that  creates some very murky waters around Internet fast lanes, filtering and specialised services. The Council now goes into the so-called ‘trilogue’  talks with the European Parliament, and the prospect of a political battle looms.

Read more: Prioritising filtering and fast lanes – the EU Council reveals ‘net neutrality’ mandate

Yesterday’s  net neutrality announcement by the FCC  was a Red Letter day for Internet freedom in the US. How will  the European Union react ?  

The United States telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, yesterday confirmed its policy direction in favour of net neutrality. It has ordered that broadband providers are to come under the common carriage regulation, which means they must neither prevent nor favour traffic, but take all on an equal basis.  The  FCC’s message is simple and clear: no blocking, no throttling, no fast lanes. The rule applies equally to mobile and fixed network providers. Meanwhile, in the deep, non-enlightened corridors of Brussels,  the EU is threatening measures that would embed exactly

Read more: The FCC orders to protect net neutrality - how will Europe react?

Following the astonishing decision last week by the US Federal Communications Commission on protecting the open Internet - no blocking, no fast lanes, no throttling - the European Parliament today begins the political defence of  net neutrality on this side of the Atlantic. At around midday today, the Parliament will take a

Read more: EU Parliament steels its resolve on net neutrality

Opt-outs for self-regulatory filtering and FacebookZero plans? Is this really net neutrality?

 The Council of Ministers is to focus on net neutrality and roaming and throw out the remaining provisions in the EU Telecoms Regulation. It’s aiming for an agreement by March, so that it can open negotiations with the European Parliament. Unfortunately for those who may be hoping for a net neutrality law in Europe, the discussions are going the wrong way, with a number of get-outs being proposed to help those  governments that want to permit their Internet providers to block,  filter or favour.

Read more: Working towards a disconnected Continent - net neutrality gets the EU Council treatment

Who would knowingly request the invasion of their privacy and violation of their free speech rights?

There are rumours that the Council of Ministers  of the European Union is reviewing its proposal on net neutrality that leaked recently.  However, there seem to be many observers who are  puzzled by one piece of language in the proposal. That is the phrase "except where specifically requested by an end-user". Why would the EU Council would consider an individual ‘requesting’ traffic management  as an exception to a  net neutrality rule? I put forward one possible answer.

Read more: EU net neutrality battle: what end-user requests traffic management?

The Council of Ministers is sharply divided over the net neutrality provisions in the new Telecoms Regulation. The split within the Council  emerged today  in a meeting of the Telecoms Council, where all 28 EU member governments gave their view on the Council’s new proposals for net neutrality. Broadly, the positions line up with the Dutch and Slovenians who are not happy with the Council’s text,  and (sadly) the Brits at the diametrically opposite position,  who support it.

Read more: EU Council divided over net neutrality law

After President Obama’s recent statement in support of a strong net neutrality law, many European citizens will be disappointed at the EU’s latest  position as the political battle for the Internet reprises.

 The EU's  net neutrality battle is starting up again after a few months' hiatus. It’s all happening around the Telecoms Regulation, that was adopted last March by the European Parliament with a ground-breaking provision to enshrine net neutrality into EU law. Naturally, the large telecoms corporations are up in arms against it, and now documents - seen by Iptegrity -  have emerged  from the Council of Ministers that reveal an attempt to erase it. And, the Council proposals will enshrine traffic management  as the principle for running the Internet.

Read more: Is the EU Council trying to delete net neutrality?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Copyright Enforcement Enigma tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package and how the copyright industries tried to hijack it.

'accurate and absorbing account of the story of the Telecoms Package' -Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology

'...a must read for those interested in knowing in depth about copyright enforcement and Internet.' -Journal of Intellectual Property Rights.  

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

European Parliament launch for Copyright Enforcement Enigma

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

by Monica Horten

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