Dutch take European lead with net neutrality

The Dutch senate has passed a net neutrality law that makes it illegal for ISPs in the country to filter the internet. The laws, which were passed unanimously earlier this week, means that all traffic must be treated equally and may not be blocked or throttled. The Netherlands is the first European country to adopt such a law, and the second country in the world to do so after Chile.

The move ensures that end users have unfettered access to over-the-top services such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber. What’s more, ISPs will not be allowed to alter prices to reflect the use of such services on their networks. Traffic may be blocked but only in where it is deemed necessary to ensure the integrity and security of the network or end user terminals.

An exception clause to the law does allow for ISP filtering when requested by customers, a clause that remarkably was voted for accidently last year by the Dutch Labour party, after a sub-amendment was proposed by the Dutch Reformed Protestant Party SGP and Christian Democrat Party CDA. Senator Han Noten of the Labour Party said that this would be corrected by a further amendment, after fears that it could lead to internet censorship.

Other changes in the law also restrict the use of Deep Packet Inspection and prevents ISPs from arbitrarily disconnecting customers without a court order or unless they have not paid. In addition, the law states that web sites cannot use cookies without first explicitly asking for user permission.

Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital rights movement which campaigned for these provisions, welcomed the new law. “It considers this a historical moment for internet freedom in The Netherlands and calls on other countries to follow the Dutch example” it said in a statement on its web site.

While the Dutch stance is seen by many as progressive, there are some who have raised objections. Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda was vocal about reservations to the law in a speech last year when said that, “I regret very much that The Netherlands seems to be moving unilaterally on this issue. We must act on the basis of facts, not passion; acting quickly and without reflection can be counterproductive. For example, requiring operators to provide only “full internet” could kill innovative new offers. Even worse, it could mean higher prices for those consumers with more limited needs who were ready to accept a cheaper, limited package.”

Regarding net neutrality, Sean Williams, group strategy director at BT Group, told that, “For me, the debate about net neutrality is about… would we as network providers ever discriminate between content or applications on the internet or otherwise impede them, such as Skype, or TV content? And we would say that we would not do that and we never have done.”

Neelie Kroes will be keynote speaker on Day One of the  Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 16 – 18 October 2012 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Click here now to register your interest.

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  1. Avatar Lola 10/05/2012 @ 2:48 pm

    Bravo to Netherlands! The law has to do with the freedom and not with the pricing methods. It is lame and counterproductive to try to impose limits just to alter the prices. The network providers should think of ways to add value to their offers and not merely provide “cheaper, limited packages”.

  2. Avatar Toni 10/05/2012 @ 5:00 pm

    Very interesting. Will see how the operators will react to this. It seems to be the NL lawmakers have gone to far telling the telecom ops how to manage their network. How can you provide same service to all applications when its known that Web and Email get precedence over Streaming Video or P2P?

  3. Avatar Michael Andersen 11/05/2012 @ 7:40 pm

    Good move! -the operators have been focusing on DPI for too long without offering any marketable benefits to their customers.

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