The European Parliament just dealt a major blow to net neutrality

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

European Parliament rejects amendments protecting net neutrality.

The EU has rejected legal amendments that would establish and protect the concept of net neutrality in Europe. “Unlike any other medium, the internet enables individuals to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds instantaneously and inexpensively across national borders.Today at 1.30pm Members of the European Parliament vote on legislation which — according to independent observers and over 50 of the tech industries biggest players — could threaten net neutrality if key amendments are not pushed forward and added to the new laws.

By vastly expanding the capacity of individuals to enjoy their right to freedom of opinion and expression, which is an “enabler” of other human rights, the internet boosts economic, social and political development, and contributes to the progress of humankind as a whole.” Germany, France, and other States have gone even farther by declaring access to the internet a basic human right. The adopted legislation allows the creation of internet fast lanes for “specialized services” and lets ISPs offer so-called “zero-rating” products — i.e. apps and services that don’t count towards monthly data allowances. Whether you believe the internet to be on par with the right to freely express yourself is irrelevant to today’s proceedings — fact is, the internet is now the medium through which we communicate. Critics of the legislation say that the latter loophole will allow big internet companies to favor certain services in commercial deals. (For example, an ISP could make a deal with Apple so that the streaming service Apple Music is “zero-rated” while Spotify isn’t, coercing that ISP’s customers to use Apple’s products.) And while proponents of the bill say that letting “specialized services” use an internet fast lane makes sense for important devices such as self-driving cars or remote medical operations, critics say the legal language is too vague and will allow big companies to pay for faster access.

But as Amar Toor wrote yesterday, the proposed net neutrality legislation “includes major loopholes that could undermine the very principle that it claims to protect.” Any net neutrality law that allows internet traffic to be shaped by an ISP requires data monitoring and inspection. Stanford Law Professor Barbara van Schewick, also Director of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, has collated signatures from almost 50 tech giants, startups and investors for an open letter which will be sent to EU legislators today. Not by the NSA but by ISPs like KPN and TalkTalk and Orange — companies that become the gatekeepers of data, ultimately choosing who wins (deep-pocketed incumbents) and who loses (you). Signatories include major investors Union Square Ventures, Felix Capital, Etsy, EyeEm, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, Netflix, Sunstone Capital, Earlybird Ventures, SoundCloud, Vimeo and Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and Larry Lessig.

The newly-adopted EU legislation also allows ISPs to speed up or slow down traffic depending on what sort of data is being sent — making video calls more important than emails, for example. In the EU parliament some MEPs, especially the Social Democrats and the European People’s Party have been ignoring startups and a broad coalition of stakeholders to adopt law they know is flawed. Please vote for #netneutrality amendments to protect startups & innovation @XXX #netneutrality amendments are supported by 50 startups & investors, @timberners_lee & others.

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