Net Neutrality

Dutch Net Neutrality Moves Signal Euro Discord

Who needs the European Commission? When it comes to net neutrality, not the Dutch, it seems, who have pressed ahead regardless of EC diktats and enshrined their own hardline take on the concept in national legislation. Local operator T-Mobile Netherlands is already in hot water over alleged net neutrality violations.

Lest anyone forget, net neutrality is the clear-as-mud notion that all Internet traffic be treated equally. If you're a service provider, that essentially means you can't let someone use Facebook free of network charges if you aren't extending the same privilege to other social networking sites.

It's obviously a bit more complicated than that, entailing all sorts of stuff about "specialized services" that fall outside the normal rules. These exemptions should allow operators to venture into the unexplored wilderness of 5G network slicing and provide a smorgasbord of differentiated services to customers. But you can expect lots of legal wrangling over the details and interpretation of the rules. (See BEREC Heeds Net Neutrality's Spurious Call to Arms.)

One thing's for sure, though: The Dutch have taken an even tougher stance on net neutrality than the European Commission . "We believe that the Dutch net neutrality law goes far beyond the intent of the EU regulation," said Afke Schaart, the Europe vice president of the GSM Association (GSMA) , which lobbies on behalf of the mobile-phone industry. "We therefore call on the EC to ensure the harmonized implementation of Europe's Open Internet rules."

The Dutch position almost certainly means that operators will not be able to do any zero rating -- an important-sounding term that basically means providing free access to certain sites and services while continuing to charge data fees for others.

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This is an unwelcome development for net neutrality bad boy T-Mobile Netherlands , which has started offering access to music streaming services without demanding any data-usage fees from subscribers. As in other instances where operators have been accused of violating net neutrality principles, consumer groups have cried foul. Internet services that consumers cannot access without paying usage fees are at an immediate disadvantage, they have reportedly argued.

Where this ends is anyone's guess (probably in disappointment for T-Mobile), but it shows just how fragmented Europe's telecom industry has become. Regional authorities disagree with national ones. Telcos are happy with neither. And harmonization is a fancy word that has no bearing on reality. Europe apparently wants to seize the lead on 5G and show North America and Asia who's boss. It's increasingly hard to see that happening.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

iainmorris 10/12/2016 | 5:12:28 AM
Re: Nits, and the picking thereof Probably right but it sounds like a feast for lawyers to me. "This site is not really competing against that site because one's focused on streaming and the other's about downloads blah blah..." Also, do the real hardliners on net neutrality think it's OK to prioritize one website or Internet service over another if it is addressing an entirely different need (music versus news, say)? I would imagine few of them do. T-Mobile's got them riled in the Netherlands, in any case.
inkstainedwretch 10/11/2016 | 7:16:54 PM
Nits, and the picking thereof My understanding is that T-Mobile is open to extending zero-rating to any music service. Voila -- no discrimination and therefore no net-neut violations. Or do I have that wrong?

-- Brian Santo
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