World

Actions

EU Lawmakers Pass Law Protecting Net Neutrality

European Lawmakers voted to protect net neutrality on Thursday, beating the U.S. and many other countries to a hardline decision on the issue.
Posted at 9:04 AM, Apr 04, 2014

European lawmakers voted to protect net neutrality on Thursday. Still a little confused on what exactly net neutrality is? Here's an explainer from the Save the Internet Campaign:

"Whether it's Google or Yahoo, Lonely Girl or Bill O'reilly, everyday citizens or business tycoons — everybody's website gets the same speed and quality. That's called net neutrality."

It's the idea that all content should flow freely through the Internet, without bandwidth throttling or blocking. And a writer for ZDNet explains the implications. 

"That would mean Internet providers cannot throttle a user streaming Netflix content because of the high-bandwidth costs, or mobile carriers blocking access to Skype because it hurts voice, calling, and text-messaging revenue." (Via ZDNet)

Many sources are quick to point out the rules still have a long way to go before becoming law — the next European Parliament as well as individual European countries will have to be in agreement.

And as The New York Times points out, the road could be bumpy because of strict amendments by lawmakers. A hard-line definition of net neutrality, inclusion of mobile phone companies in the law, and wording that prevents ISPs from classifying certain companies as "specialized services" in order to exempt said companies from the law all face opposition. 

Of course, even with the challenges ahead, many are lauding the Union's decisiveness. Forbes' headline says it all. But the writer ponders if this could affect decisions in the U.S.

"The United States hasn’t been as progressive on net neutrality – or digital privacy issues, for that matter – as the EU. But on both sides of the pond, influencers and stakeholders were watching the net neutrality vote as a harbinger of things to come. ... Now that the vote is in, could it spur more conversation stateside?" (Via Forbes)

And it's clear such a conversation would be relevant — the EU's vote comes shortly after Netflix and Comcast announced a deal in which Netflix would pay the ISP to insure smooth streaming to its customers. That, folks, is the opposite of net neutrality.