MEPs 'see sense' on net neutrality and roaming

The European parliament has voted in favour of the single digital market package to guarantee an "open and free internet" for Europe's citizens.

03 Apr 2014

The so-called connected continent proposal also includes measures to abolish high costs for mobile roaming across the EU.

Speaking after the vote, Greens/EFA eCommunications spokesperson Amelia Andersdotter said, "Thankfully, a majority of MEPs has seen sense... and voted to uphold the principle of net neutrality in the EU.

"Information online should not be subject to discrimination, blocking or interference by internet access providers" - Amelia Andersdotter

"The proposals by the commission, which would essentially have given large providers the all-clear for discriminating against users as they see fit, have been revised," she explained.

"[Thursday's] vote would explicitly provide for net neutrality and will hopefully ensure a level playing field for all online services and users, providing for a more open internet environment in which innovation is encouraged.

"We now hope EU governments in council will endorse this approach. Information online should not be subject to discrimination, blocking or interference by internet access providers," the Swedish deputy continued.

"500 million Europeans must soon be able to rely on legal guarantees for an open internet" - Marietje Schaake

"This is what net neutrality implies: guaranteeing an open and free internet, where everyone can have access and contribute to the same online information. Clearly, [this] vote is important, but we will have to remain vigilant to ensure any future threats to net neutrality can be headed off."

ALDE MEP Marietje Schaake also welcomed the outcome saying, "After months of negotiations, the European parliament has… adopted my proposal to close the last remaining loopholes in the text, in order to enshrine net neutrality in European law.

"This is essential for competitiveness, innovation and the open internet in Europe. The parliament supports the rights of consumers and a level playing field for all players in the digital single market," adding, "500 million Europeans must soon be able to rely on legal guarantees for an open internet".

"Without legal guarantees for net neutrality one in four Europeans are unable to access the online services of their choice.

"[This] vote also creates safeguards to ensure that players without deep pockets, such as start-ups, hospitals or universities, cannot be pushed out of the market as a result of deals between internet service providers and content providers to offer faster services at a higher price.

"The public value of an open internet cannot be underestimated", emphasised Schaake.

Nicola Frank, head of European affairs at the European broadcasting union, praised parliament, saying, "While the European commission had set an ambitious objective for net neutrality in Europe, the European parliament has gone the extra mile to ensure choice on the open internet for audiences.

"While it should be possible to offer specialised services, people's freedom to access online content of their choice should clearly come first. At the same time, the provisions adopted… will also allow more scope for online innovation."

Meanwhile, Guillermo Beltra, digital team policy officer at the European consumer organisation, responded to the outcome saying, "Net neutrality is as close as it gets to being the issue of our times for the internet. We are reassured to see MEPs say equitable internet provision must be realised.

"It is in no-one's interest to see overt control of internet traffic speeds and access pass too far into the hands of Europe's handful of network operators. Net neutrality is the buffer against such a scenario.

"It's also a bulwark against a future 'two-tier' internet of consumers paying premiums to access certain services or operators prioritising their own content while degrading the speed of competitors.

He remarked, "Internet traffic management is like a good referee in football - it's needed in minor emergencies and should otherwise go unnoticed."

Speaking on the reduction of roaming costs, Beltra said that though "big operators resist" for them the vote signalled "the end of the road".

"Liberals have negotiated hard to push roaming premiums out of the market and to reshape Europe's telecoms landscape in a more competitive and more consumer-friendly way" - Guy Verhofstadt

"We've been taken on a few detours over the years, but a ban on roaming throughout the 28 countries of the EU is now in sight for next year. If we live in a true single market, then the justifications for roaming charges run out of credit.

"Everyone wins with this. Currently, 47 per cent of travellers never use mobile internet because data costs are so ominous. So with a ban we can expect usage to continue to spike. Holidaymakers and travelling phone users will not have to do the familiar data function switch off when their plane, train or automobile crosses a border," he finished.

Parliament's ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt also responded to the vote saying, "This day marks an important step for mobile and internet users in Europe. Liberals have negotiated hard to push roaming premiums out of the market and to reshape Europe's telecoms landscape in a more competitive and more consumer-friendly way.

"We should try to seal the agreement with the council before the European elections," he concluded.

 

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