This is getting rather tiresome. Time and again, the idea of net neutrality - treating all IP packets equally - comes under attack; time and again, people fight off the attack. And then the next one comes. Most of us thought that the big European Parliament vote in favour of Net neutrality back in April would finally put an end to this purgatorial repetition. Instead, it seems that out of nowhere, the Italian Presidency has proposed awful changes to the net neutrality proposals:
On 14 November 2014, the Italian Presidency presented amendments to the Telecommunications package for comment by the Member State delegations. We are hereby making the document and its annexes publicly available (Note and addendum). These documents show that the Italian Presidency is now back-pedalling on meaningful net neutrality protections – having previously made some much more meaningful and positive suggestions. It presented a “principles-based approach” to the Member States “in order not to inhibit innovation and to avoid” having an outdated regulation in the future. In reality, all the text would do is add confusion for freedom of communication and online innovation.
In an act of astonishing stupidity the text removes the definition of net neutrality, thus rendering the whole project literally meaningless:
“Instead of a definition of net neutrality there could be a reference to the objective of net neutrality, e.g. in an explanatory recital, which would resolve the concerns that the definition might be at variance with the specific provisions.” Yet, without meaningful and enforceable net neutrality provisions, the fundamental right to receive and impart information would be hindered – with significant costs for growth, investment and innovation.
As the EDRi analysis quoted goes on to notes, there's a particularly odd addition, too:
The proposal also makes a bizarre reference to the legislation being without prejudice to the lawfulness of “information, content, application [sic] or services” – even though nothing in the text could possibly be understood as legalising illegal content. The purpose of this text appears to permit the widespread arbitrary “voluntary” blocking practised in some EU Member States, most notably the United Kingdom. If this is the meaning, then it is in clear and obvious breach of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
This gratuitous element has the fingerprints of lobbyists all over it. It looks like yet another demonstration of how destructive and selfish the copyright industry is. As we've seen time and again - with the UK's Digital Economy Act, for example - it cares little what collateral damage it causes to anyone else in its blinkered obsession with protecting outdated and broken business models. The latest bad news on net neutrality is a further reason why thoroughgoing European copyright reform is urgently required, and needs to be radical enough to minimise the malign influence of the music and publishing industries in the future.