Please Help Save European Net Neutrality

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A few days ago I was ruminating on the recent on-the-spot conversion of the US FCC's Chairman to network neutrality. I pointed out there was a new site devoted to preserving the same in Europe, called EU Open Internet, which has now clocked up a respectable 2,700 signatures.

Unfortunately, there is a specific threat to net neutrality in Europe, hidden away in the Telecoms Package. Here's an explanation from La Quadrature du Net:

Negotiations on the conciliation phase of the EU "Telecoms Package", will begin on September 28th. During 8 weeks, 27 Members of the European Parliament and 27 representatives of every Member State of the EU Council will decide the future of the European Internet. Alarmingly, in second reading, the European Parliament adopted dispositions that are harmful to the fundamental principle of Net neutrality. La Quadrature du Net sent a letter to urge the French ministers in charge to solve this issue, crucial for Europe's free competition, innovation and EU citizens' fundamental freedoms.

As the Obama administration took a radical step towards strongly enforcing Net neutrality in the US, and despite very disturbing parts of their plan showing a close link to the Hollywood industries, Europe cannot be left behind.

La Quadrature du Net publishes today a 22-page dossier explaining the crucial economical and social stakes of Net neutrality, as well as a 2-pager memo.

Here's what it asks you to do:

The citizen advocacy group invites all EU citizens to contact their representatives in the European Parliament and in the Council, to inform them about these issues with the help of the above-mentioned analytical material, and to urge them to take strong positions to remove from the Telecoms Package the provisions that threaten Net neutrality and write down a strong guarantee of this principle.

And here's what I've sent to my MEPs:

As you know, negotiations on the conciliation phase of the EU Telecoms Package, will begin on September 28th. During 8 weeks, 27 Members of the European Parliament and 27 representatives of every Member State of the EU Council will decide the future of the European Internet.

Unfortunately, as the Telecoms Package currently stands, there is a clause (Articles 20.1.b, 2nd paragraph, and 21.3.b of the Universal Service Directive) which allows for “conditions limiting access to and/or use of services and applications”. This short phrase is sufficient to kill net neutrality in the EU.

This would be a serious problem. The Internet has been such a huge success because it just delivers the digital packets that it is charged with: it does not look inside them and discriminate according to their type of contents. This has allowed new and exciting services to be introduced without needing permission from network suppliers, who simply transport the digital signal.

If the clause currently in the Telecoms Package is allowed to remain, it will give network suppliers the power to decide which innovations will thrive and which will not. In effect, they will become the gatekeepers of Internet innovation.

As you will have read, the US has realised that this could lead to a throttling of new services on the Internet, and the Chairman of the FCC has recently stated that he intends to defend net neutrality. If the European Union wishes to remain competitive on the world scene, and to implement the Lisbon Strategy, it too must ensure that net neutrality is preserved in Europe.

It is worth emphasising that, contrary to some lobbyists' claims, this does not stop network suppliers from charging different rates for different speeds, or even managing traffic sensibly; it simply says that such actions must be carried out independently of the digital bits that are carried – that is, in a truly neutral fashion.

I therefore urge you and your colleagues to ensure the net neutrality is preserved in Europe, and to amend the clause discussed above that would otherwise jeopardise it.

Please write to your MEPs expressing your concern about net neutrality in Europe. There are lots of materials on the La Quadrature du Net site that will help.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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