A slow internet connection can prove both annoying and damaging to your business. This could not only be due to network congestion at peak times, but also because a telecom company decides to limit access to certain services and applications, for example those of its competitor. On 18 March, Parliament’s industry committee approved a proposal to ban this kind of practice, which violates the principle of net neutrality.
All data available online should be treated equally, regardless of the source or type, the committee said, voting to enshrine this into EU legislation, as part of new rules for the telecoms sector.
“Traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference,” said Pilar del Castillo after the vote. The Spanish member of the EPP group is responsible for steering the legislation through the EP.
“I’m very happy that the committee voted in favour of a ban on blocking, discriminating and throttling of internet content,” added Jens Rohde, a Danish member of ALDE, who follows the file on behalf of his political group.
Companies would still be able to offer their customers so-called specialised services offering better quality for some data-intensive applications such as high-definition TV over internet service, videoconferencing or interactive telemedicine, which involves providing clinical health care from a distance.
The committee added some safeguards to ensure these arrangments do not harm public services or the open nature of internet: specialised services would only be allowed if they do not slow down or interfere with the internet use of other users, while internet providers should not push people or content creators to buy these services.
However, some MEPs said that the safeguards would not be not strong enough to prevent discrimination.
“We don’t oppose specialised services - ipTV and telemedicine are good examples - but the development of them should not affect the speed or the quality of the average consumer's access,” said Teresa Riera, a Spanish MEP who is the spokesperson for the S&D group in the industry committee.
“There must be a more precise definition of specialised services, so that they are not confused with internet access services,” added Catherine Trautmann, a French MEP who follows the file on behalf of the S&D group.
Amelia Andersdotter, a Swedish MEP who is the e-communications spokersperson for the Green group, said: “A centre-right majority has regrettably supported proposals by the Commission, which would essentially give large providers the all clear for discriminating against users as they see fit.”
The plenary vote is scheduled for 3 April.