European Parliament Sets Network Neutrality Rules

The European Parliament has ratified net neutrality rules applying across the European Union. Blocking of lawful apps has been an issue.  

In 2012, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) reported that between 21 percent and 36 percent of Internet access subscribers were affected by blocking or throttling depending on the type of application.

The new rules forbid blocking or throttling of lawful online content, applications and services, on mobile or fixed networks. That will have possible implications for Skype, Facetime or other apps sometimes blocked by ISPs. Nor will it be lawful to charge a fee to “unblock” those apps.

No traffic can be prioritized, whether on a paid or unpaid basis. At the same time, equal treatment allows reasonable day-to-day traffic management according to justified technical requirements, and which must be independent of the origin or destination of the traffic and of any commercial considerations.

The rules also clarify the conditions under which “Internet” and “managed services” can be offered.
Basically, managed services only might be offered where and if sufficient capacity for internet access remains available.

The rules forbid any special treatment of different classes of Internet traffic except for “reasonable traffic management” to optimize overall transmission quality.

Reasonable traffic management therefore cannot be used to discriminate against specific categories of content or services such as peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic.

The legislation allows operators, under very strict conditions, to take action in the network that may affect certain types of traffic in order to mitigate the effects of congestion. Such measures are only permitted if congestion is "exceptional" or "temporary", and provided all traffic of the same category is treated alike.

Zero rating, also called sponsored connectivity, is a commercial practice used by some providers of internet access, especially mobile operators, not to count the data volume of particular applications or services against the user's limited monthly data volume. Zero rating is not forbidden, but must comply with the other provisions of the rules, in particular those on non-discriminatory traffic management.

The rules on net neutrality will apply starting 30 April 2016.
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