Dutch Net Neutrality Moves Signal Euro Discord

Dutch take on net neutrality makes the European Commission look like the telcos' best friend.

Iain Morris, International Editor

October 11, 2016

3 Min Read
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

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About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

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