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March 17, 2014 | Javier Ruiz

EU crucial vote on Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is a fundamental aspect of the Internet as we know it. Right now all bits are treated equally, so traffic from big companies like Microsoft and Facebook gets the same speed as your blogs or podcasts. Different types of traffic are sometimes optimised, for example games or video. But the idea is that nobody's traffic should be slowed down. Internet users and website owners shouldn't have to pay Internet Service Providers a premium to be given access to the Internet fast lane.

Tomorrow, 18 March 2014, the Industry (ITRE) committee of the European Parliament is voting on a proposal for a new Regulation for a Telecom Single Market that promises to enshrine net neutrality into law across the EU. The initiative is to be commended, but the current version of the text contains some very dangerous loopholes. The good news is that these could be easily fixed if MEPs struck down a couple of articles.

Specialised services

The proposed Regulation that would allow Internet providers to charge extra money for so called "specialised services", for example video-on-demand such as Netflix. Many people are worried this will lead to a two-tiered internet, where companies with deep pockets hog the fast lane, leaving the rest of us in the dust.

ISPs policing the internet

Unless the Regulation is amended, Internet Providers will be able to block content without any judicial oversight. Internet Service Providers should not be allowed to decide what content you can and cannot access.

Weakening the principle of net neutrality could make your Internet more expensive. Your bill could start looking like Sky or Virgin TV, with basic services and confusing added packages. But tinkering with net neutrality would also impact freedom of speech and plurality of the media, as independent voices struggle to reach into the mainstream.

The outcome of the vote remains uncertain and depends on the vote of a small number of MEPs who might still be swayed. For more information and If you want to take action, check out the campaign site www.savetheinternet.eu

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