Net Neutrality in Europe? The proposal of the European Commission

The European Commission has put forward in September 2013 a draft Regulation for an EU Digital Single Market.

This Regulation has various parts and also lays down principles to safeguard Net Neutrality. It defines the differences of “Internet Access Service” and “Specialised Service” and provides consumer safeguards, including the right of end-users to access and distribute information and content and to run applications and use services of their choice. At the same time it also acknowledges Internet access providers’ right to apply reasonable traffic management measures. Consumer rights are also protected by securing transparency of Internet access service tariff plans, pricing conditions, quality of the service (such as upload and download speeds) and any restrictions that may apply. It also provides safeguards for quality of Internet access service by empowering National Regulatory Authorities to impose minimum Quality-of-Service requirements on Internet Access Service providers.

By the end of 2013, the draft Regulation was at the European Parliament for consideration, with Net Neutrality-related issues being analyzed by two Committees: the IMCO (Internal Market and Consumers) Committee and the ITRE (Industry & Energy) Committee.

Both Committees are proposing some changes to the draft Regulation and in the case of Net Neutrality specifi cally ask for:

  • Grant BEREC the power to provide guidelines to define in what cases traffic management is allowed and for Quality-of-Service.
  • Allow traffic management for Quality-of-Service differentiation of services based on Internet access and the provision of specialized services.

IMCO and ITRE committees keep working on their draft reports, which by March 2014 are not yet at the end of legislative process. Thus, it is not clear when the approval of the EU Digital Single Market Regulation could be expected for, certainly not before 2014 year end.