[A2k] EU Parliament Still Divided on the Issue of Net Neutrality

La Quadrature du Net jz at laquadrature.net
Fri Jan 31 02:22:19 PST 2014


La Quadrature du Net

Permanent link: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/eu-parliament-still-divided-on-the-issue-of-net-neutrality

EU Parliament Still Divided on the Issue of Net Neutrality

*** The proposal [1] of the European Commission on Net neutrality is currently discussed within the European Parliament. Committees appointed for opinion have already expressed their point of view on this text – except the Civil liberties (LIBE) committee, whose report will be voted on February 12th. ***

** Opinion Reports bring potential improvements **

Since last summer, La Quadrature du Net and others have expressed several doubts and concerns [2] on the proposal of the European Commission.

In order to fill those legal voids, on December 2013, La Quadrature du Net proposed a batch of amendments [3], whose main goal was to help Members of the European Parliament to:
    - follow the BEREC guidelines for Quality of Service in the scope of Net neutrality [4], clarifying specialised services have to be operated within closed electronic communications networks;
    - stress that a specialised service shall not reiterate a service functionally identical to a service already available on the open Internet, in order not to circumvent Net neutrality and boost innovation in the digital economy;
    - better define the nature of a reasonable traffic management practice;
    - cover the freedom to connect any devices to the network;
    - endow regulatory authorities with legal instruments geared to: monitor and report on Internet traffic management measures; put in place clear procedures to address citizens’complaints on the infringement of Net neutrality; be in capacity to sanction Net neutrality breaches.

The outcomes of this first "round of voting" open a window on the future and crucial steps of the procedure. Committees appointed for opinions have indeed proposed some improvements to the original text of the European Commission such as the deletion of article 19 on Assured Quality of Services products, the introduction of an enforcement mechanism or the deletion of "serious crime" as a condition for the implementation of any traffic management measure.

However, it remains to be seen whether Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee will accept to take these opinions into account when its own report – directed to influence the final position of the European Parliament as a whole – will be adopted on February 24th. In any case, on specialised services and the definition of Net neutrality, which are crucial aspects of any Net neutrality legislation, much remains to be done.

** Key aspects of Net neutrality still missing **

The last week vote in Internal Market (IMCO) committee demonstrates how the Net neutrality principle is still in danger. For example, the definition of specialised services therein adopted, is very far from being satisfactory: the compromise reached does not clarify indeed that the dividing line between a specialised service and an internet access service is whether or not that service is operated within closed network and is already available over the open Internet. Furthermore the provision aimed at “deploying traffic management to ensure the appropriate level of network capacity and quality”, if maintained, will de facto become a gaping loophole in the Regulation, allowing providers to discriminate on the basis of contents.

The same kind of approach on specialised services has been adopted in Legal Affairs (JURI) committee, where the amendment carried also opens the doors to anti-competitive practices. The Members of the European Parliament have to be aware that refusing to complete the definition of specialised services would mean to definitely compromise the free choice of Internet users and their wonderful potential of creativity and innovation [5].

Furthermore, JURI committee rejected the excellent amendment 61, tabled by Marietje Schaake (NL - ALDE) and Cecilia Wikström (SE - ALDE), pleading for a reinforcement of the Net neutrality principle, by protecting the right of every single user to connect any hardware device to access the Internet.
Del Castillo and Rohde against everyone else?

On February 24th, the text will be voted in ITRE committee, responsible for the file; the report adopted at that time will be thereafter submitted to the whole European Parliament, during the last plenary sitting of this legislation, currently scheduled for April 2nd. Unluckily, this committee raises several concerns.

First of all, the rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo Vera (ES - EPP), has refused, since the beginning of the decision-making process, to introduce or promote amendments guaranteeing a true protection of Net neutrality. Although she is wary of clearly displaying her opposition to a definition of specialised services BEREC-oriented, her public statements plead in favour of “an inclusive approach” supposed to guarantee the fruition of an open Internet. But what does she mean exactly? Why a stricter definition of specialised services could harm any player's possibility to navigate and benefit of an open Internet? Why a greater guarantee for European citizens to benefit of their right to communicate without interferences would challenge the existence of an open Internet? Why does she not have the political bravery to state that Net neutrality is not something she cares about, as potentially problematic for telecom giants? 
At least, it would be more clear and honest for her constituency.

Secondly, Jens Rohde (DK - ALDE), shadow rapporteur for the ALDE group, did not even make the effort to table amendments on those critical subjects and he did nothing but state to share Pilar del Castillo Vera’s positions. This passive attitude is quite deplorable; all the more so as there is considerable number of dissenting voices within his group. Excellent amendments have been tabled in various committees by his fellow party members Sophia in 't Veld (NL - ALDE), Marietje Schaake, Cecilia Wikström, Nadja Hirsch (DE - ALDE), Alexander Alvaro (DE - ALDE), who genuinely defend and reinforce the Net neutrality principle. These voices cannot go unheeded.

** The fate of Net neutrality in the hands of socio-democrats? **

However, the Net neutrality fringe within the ALDE group is not the only one in the European Parliament. Aside the excellent work made by the Greens – headed by their shadow rapporteur Amelia Andersdotter (SE - Greens/EFA) – we also observed good inputs coming from socialists, headed by Mrs. Catherine Trautmann (FR - S&D), as shadow rapporteur for her group, and Dimitrios Droutsas (GR - S&D), as Vice-president of ITRE committee.

As Mrs. Herczog (HU - S&D) recently stated speaking on behalf of Catherine Trautmann, the Socialists seem to attach a great importance to a clearer definition of specialised services. Unluckily, even if the amendment 3606 – cosigned by Trautmann, Madurell (ES - S&D), Droutsas and Herczog – goes in the right direction, it really needs to be improved in order to prevent that a service functionally identical to another available on the open Internet could be commercialised. This provision is essential to guarantee a fair competition and innovation within the European single market for electronic communications and create all guarantees necessary to a genuine implementation of the Net neutrality principle.

Mrs. Trautmann, as the person with the most authority for her role, competence and experience on this kind of issues, is the only one in capacity to fight against the anti-Net neutrality and anti-competitive positions existing within ITRE committee. And she can do it, all the more so as her colleague Dimitrios Droutsas, with who she signed the insufficient amendment 360 on the definition of specialised services, realised the importance of a further clarification on that field. As a matter of fact, in view of the adoption of LIBE opinion, Mr. Droutsas later tabled the amendment 54, which includes civil society suggestions and clearly addresses the anti-competitive risk raised by specialised services. 
Let's hope Droutsas' input, with the unconditional support of Mrs. Trautmann, can become the firm and official position of the S&D group as a whole, in order to have a powerful counterbalance to the unacceptable positions entrenched so far by Pilar del Castillo Vera, and endorsed by Jens Rohde.

In the wake of the civil society organisations' calls and the amount of amendments tabled in defence of Net neutrality, it would be completely unacceptable if the members of ITRE committee were to capitulate in the face of the telecom lobby. The European Parliament must bring comprehensive protections to Net neutrality, so as to protect freedom of expression and promote innovation in the digital economy.

Next four weeks will thereby determine the fate of Net neutrality in Europe; every European citizen can act and have an actual influence on the evolution of this file, by getting in touch with their MEPs and calling on them to bring comprehensive protections to the free Internet. To get on board, please visit the campaign website http://savetheinternet.eu .

By Miriam Artino, in charge of legal and political analysis for La Quadrature du Net

* References *

1. http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2013/EN/1-2013-627-EN-F1-1.Pdf

2. https://www.laquadrature.net/en/eu-parliament-still-divided-on-the-issue-of-net-neutrality

3. https://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/LQDN_proposal_for_amendements_on_Single_Market_Regulation

4. http://berec.europa.eu/files/news/bor_12_32_guidelines.pdf

5. After the adoption of the Regulation, a reflection could be launched to consider the possibility of allowing prioritization of Internet communications, as long as three main conditions are met: i) that such Quality of Service be application-agnostic (applied indiscriminately to different online services or applications); ii) that such Quality of Service be under the full control of the user so as to preserve the key architectural features of the Internet; iii) that the best-effort Internet be protected from degradation caused by the development of guaranteed QoS, for instance by ensuring a “sufficient quality of service” for the best-effort traffic delivery model (a notion already in use in some EU countries).
On propositions for such positive discrimination and its relationship to Net neutrality, see the work of prof. Barbara van Schewick: https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2012/06/network-non-discrimination-and-quality-service

** About La Quadrature du Net **

La Quadrature du Net is an advocacy group that defends the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet. More specifically, it advocates for the adaptation of French and European legislations to respect the founding principles of the Internet, most notably the free circulation of knowledge. 

In addition to its advocacy work, the group also aims to foster a better understanding of legislative processes among citizens. Through specific and pertinent information and tools, La Quadrature du Net hopes to encourage citizens' participation in the public debate on rights and freedoms in the digital age.

La Quadrature du Net is supported by French, European and international NGOs including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Society Institute and Privacy International.

List of supporting organisations: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/they-support-la-quadrature-du-net

** Contact **

Miriam Artino, ma at laquadrature.net, +33 (0) 9 72 29 44 26


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