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As the European Parliament begins work on the new Telecoms Regulation, there are early warning signals that the issue of net neutrality will be heavily fought over. It has emerged that the two big committees with responsibility for telecoms both wanted to take it on. There was a tussle between the two, and in the end, it was subject to higher level decision that gave net neutrality to the Industry committee. Moreover, it looks as though net neutrality will be one key element that

the Parliament wants to address, if it can do so, before it breaks up for the European elections.

The official rapporteur on the Regulation (Proposal on a European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent ) is the Spanish EPP Pilar del Castillo. But, it emerged in the ITRE and IMCOmeetings last week that some of the work could be divided between the two committees.

Malcolm Harbour, chair of the IMCO committee and responsible for the IMCO Opinion, has also sought to get a share of the net neutrality action. Mr Harbour said in last Monday's meeting that his committee will take the lead on the 'users rights' elements that were his responsibility in the 2009 Telecoms Package. He also felt that net neutrality belonged under that umbrella.

But the administration in the European Parliament has allocated net neutrality to the ITRE committee, under the rapporteur Pilar del Castillo.

In the ITRE committee meeting last week, Mrs Del Castillo said 'Internet is something that cannot wait. We need a decision quickly. Parliament will do its part of the bargain' - although it is not clear what 'bargain' she is referring to.

It would seem that Mrs Del Castillo wants to establish a position for the Parliament by the Spring.

Indeed, the deadlines for the Telecoms Regulation amendments are very tight.

Speaking in the IMCO committee meeting, Mr Harbour said that the two of them would be working jointly on the net neutrality elements. He made a number of comments on the topic of net neutrality.

Whilst stating that net neutrality was not a well defined concept, Mr Harbour positioned it in light of the 2009 directive that he piloted through the Parliament. In several references to it, he said he did not want to go back on that position.

In the context of net neutrality, and given that the 2009 directive contains the infamous 'conditions limiting' language, I am not entirely sure what he means. However, it was clear that he intends to push the boat out to get through the huge amount of work on this massive piece of legislation and it is to be hoped that this is a positive signal.

Mrs del Castillo, for her part, organised a shot-gun consultation to gather in the views of NGOs. The deadline for submissions was last week. For those new to the European political process, this was a somewhat unusual move.

It is already clear that the European Parliament does not like the new Telecoms Regulation (New telecoms rules: EU Commission had no time to consult ) My feeling is that the European Parliament is very likely drop the other controversial provisionsin the Telecoms Regulation, notably those that mitigate in favour of the market consolidation that the Commission is seeking ( See EU Parliament threat to knife new telecoms rules) . It will keep only those that can be easily addressed, the one exception being net neutrality. Although, as Mr Harbour says, net neutrality is not explicitly defined in the draft Telecoms Regulation, the provisions in Article 23 do address the issue of net neutrality.

I'd put money on there being a big fight over net neutrality as the Telecoms Regulation makes its way through the Parliament. It will be the hot political football fought over between external interests, with the rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo, having the stressful role of mediation. It certainly promises to be interesting.

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Malcolm Harbour made many references to the 2009 Telecoms Package. Anyone who did not follow it in 2009, may find themselves struggling with this one. Happily, there is a book! The Copyright Enforcement Enigma will enlighten you on the events of the 2009 Telecoms Package and the issues that the Committees are now discussing again!

This is an original article from Iptegrity.com and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics - please cite as Monica Horten, 2013, Net neutrality: a political football as telecoms rules begin legislative journey, in Iptegrity.com 11 November 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.