The Netherlands shows how the EU Telecoms Package may be implemented with positive net neutrality principles enshrined.
The Netherlands has taken the lead in Europe on the issue of net neutrality. The Dutch Parliament voted this week on a law which being hailed positively as a net neutrality law - the first net neutrality law in Europe. This law is the Dutch implementation of the EU Telecoms Package. Key provisions will prevent ISPs
from interfering with users' traffic, and from charging fees for prioritisation of content. The Dutch law also prevents users from being disconnected except in very narrowly defined circumstances. The overall impact is to protect an open networkinfrastructure and the enshrine the neutrality of the network in the law.
European law does not require member states to do this, but it is a valid way to implement the Telecoms Package, and takes care of a provision in the Package which arguably threatens the neutrality of the network.
What is especially innovative in the Dutch net neutrality provisions is that they seek to positively prevent ISPs from prioritsing services on a paid-for basis is definitely innovative, and will set the standard for other member states:
" Providers of internet access services do not make the price of the rates for internet access services dependent on the services and applications which are offered or used via these services."
The Dutch net neutrality provisions are being interpreted as preventing the use of intrusive technologies such as deep packet inspection.
It is unclear how the provision limiting disconnection will work. It seems that it could be altered at some stage in the future, but would have to go back to the Parliament for approval.
The explanatory memorandum of the Dutch net neutrality law, is clear that the policy objective is to preserve an open and unrestricted network. For this reason, the behaviour of ISPs should be itself subject to restrictions:
" This restriction on the behavior of providers of Internet services is necessary to ensure open and unrestricted access to the Internet for (online) service providers, citizens and business. It should be prevented that Internet access service providers block or restrict specific information or services."
However, some parts of the new Dutch Telecommunications law have been directly transposed from the EU Telecoms Package, such as:
"In order to prevent the degradation of service and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over public electronic communication networks, minimum requirements regarding the quality of service of public electronic communication services may be imposed on undertakings providing public communications networks. "
The Telecommunications Act enshrining net neutrality obtained a broad majority in the Dutch Parliament . It has to be passed by the Dutch Senate before it comes into force.
A translation of the Dutch net neutrality provisions has been supplied by Bits of Freedom , a Dutch citizens' advocacy group. Bits of Freedom has supplied the source material for this article.
You are welcome to use my material, but please cite it in your articles: Monica Horten (2011) Dutch net neutrality law lights the way for Europe http://www.iptegrity.com 25 June 2011 .
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