Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

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.


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 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 Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2013, Net neutrality: a political football as telecoms rules begin legislative journey,  in  11 November 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.

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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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

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


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