The day after the ‘net neutrality vote’

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From Regulation Watch – Feed of all News articles: The day after the ‘net neutrality vote’

On Thursday April 3, the European Parliament voted in favour of a legislative package to protect network neutrality and abolish mobile roaming fees within the European Union. 534 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted for the so called Connected Continent telecommunications measures proposed by the European Commission with several amendments. The measures would put a lid on so-called managed services by forcing internet service providers to refrain from blocking and/or slowing down internet services provided by their competitors. Also, roaming charges applied to mobile phone users when outside their country of residence would be foiled effective December 15, 2015. Only 25 MEPs opposed the measures, 58 abstained.

The ‘continent is not connected yet’, though, as the measures will translate into law only once they have been approved by the European Council, a powerful body representing EU member states. A decision by the Council is expected in October 2014.

“The Council can change the text if it likes. If it does so, the Parliament will have several more goes at it. Everything depends on the lobbying power of the telecom groups in the Council,” says Andrej Savin, Law Professor at the Copenhagen Business School. “I personally think it unlikely that this will pass the Council without some struggle.”

Different stakeholders have left no doubt that they will engage in a fierce battle.

Industry divided, consumers united

The industry group European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO) criticised the outcome of the vote, arguing that there is a risk of derailing from the original objectives, “namely a strong European digital industry igniting growth and jobs creation”. ETNO, which, among other defends the interests of formal national telecom incumbents (e.g., Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia) already points towards the “next steps”, which “will be fundamental” for strengthening “EU businesses competitiveness”.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), representing internet and communication service firms such as Facebook, Google and Motorola, just to name a few, welcomed what it calls “robust open internet rules approved by the European Parliament”. In a press release, CCIA’s James Waterworth said: “An open Internet will also provide the European economy with a comparative advantage against our global competitors."

Consumer and rights groups reacted in an euphorical manner. “The European Parliament today established the EU as the major global force to protect the freedom of the open internet,” said Joe McNamee of European Digital Rights. La Quadrature du Net wrote: “The adopted text contains a rigorous definition of Net Neutrality and grants it a normative scope.”

In any case, Savin says, “the vote, although far from final, is a huge endorsement of Net Neutrality. It sends a strong signal which the Council and the Commission will have to take into account.”