Battle for the Soul of the European Internet

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Even though the internet is 40 years old, and the Web 20, it's only in the last couple of years that European politicians have started to take a deep interest in its workings – and implications for society. However, the flurry of activity we have seen in recent months more than makes up for that long neglect.

What's truly remarkable, though, is how unpredictable all this stuff is proving. For example, the fight over the “three strikes and you're out” approach, see-saws dramatically between the two sides – those in favour, and those against – as the so-called Telecoms Package wends it way through the system.

First the European Parliament votes through amendments to ensure that European citizens are not subject to arbitrary penalties imposed without oversight; then the French Parliament looks set to vote through the measure anyway. But a surprising turn-up for the books means the French vote goes against the measure, while on the European front, it seems likely that France and Britain will force the EU amendment out of the Telecoms Package.

Then, France's President Sarkozy announces that he will be re-submitting the “three strikes” bill anyway, and it also seems that the Telecoms Package amendment won't be removed, but neutered by changing the wording so as to undermine its purpose.

It's hard keeping up, which is why it's great that we have Monica Horten's fine Iptegrity site, which provides detailed and up-to-the-minute reports on what's happening in this and related areas. Here's her latest analysis:

Amendment 138 was saved tonight in a surprise European Parliament committee vote. It is another political signal of the European Parliament's disapproval of graduated response / 3-strikes measures. But the problems with the Telecoms Package remain, and users access to the Internet may still be limited or blocked under other provisions and there may be little that users can do about it.

What's really depressing is that fact that some governments – including the UK's – are simply ignoring the users in order to give their chums in industry what they want, which is to turn the Internet into a kind of cable service. It's hard to know what more can be done to keep net neutrality, other than bearing in mind this sorry saga – and who did what - when the European and parliamentary elections come around, and voting accordingly.

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