Net Neutrality in Europe in danger

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers should treat all data on the Internet equally. It’s about minimising the restrictions on which parts of the Internet you can access. And it’s about allowing startups to compete with big Internet firms and supporting innovation in the digital economy.

Shortly before the European Parliament elections last May, MEPs voted with a large majority in favour of net neutrality. The vote was a major step towards protecting the open internet in Europe. But then the European Council – which is made up of the Member states of the European Union – hammered out their version of what net neutrality rules they wanted. And it turns out that their version of net neutrality is not worthy of that name.

The Council’s text could allow Internet Service Providers to charge customers and companies extra for receiving and delivering different types of online services. Only those who pay more will have easy access to an audience online. It would also authorise blocking of lawful content. This is completely counter to net neutrality and contradicts the Parliament’s position.

The Council and the Parliament have been negotiating the final text of the new net neutrality rules for the last few months. And we’ve seen the Parliament give in to the Council’s demands time and again while the Council has given up almost nothing. The Parliament have even conceded on the definition of net neutrality. The phrase net neutrality isn’t even in the most recent working text. The Council has successfully replaced it with a vague “open internet” which suggests there is a “non-open” Internet, which is worrying.

If the Council gets their way then net neutrality in Europe will be under extreme threat. The next negotiations are set for 29th June. Until now MEPs haven’t heard a lot from European citizens about why they need to stand up for their previous position in support of net neutrality. They need to hear from us now so they know that this is something European citizens care about.

Can you email and tweet the MEPs who are negotiating on net neutrality? You can choose to contact an MEP from the UK using the ‘Filter by country’ menu.

EDRi (European Digital Rights) have been doing outstanding work tracking and campaigning on European net neutrality proposals. EDRi campaigns for digital rights in the EU and ORG is one of their members. Find out more about their excellent work on their website.