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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 25 June 2011 . 

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. 


Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.


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