The European Parliament has voted to allow the telcos who supply European Internet access to hold their customers to ransom. When Europeans request data from Web sites and services that didn't pay the ransom, EU rules will let telcos slow down the reply, while traffic between bribe-paying customers and Europeans will flow at normal speeds.
Only 50 (out of 751) MEPs bothered to attend the final debate on the rules. Those that supported the flawed rules regurgitated blatant falsehoods created by telcoms lobbyists: for example, the new rules also limit some mobile roaming charges within the EU. MEPs announced that they would support the new rules in order to keep this measure intact, repeating the myth that they couldn't vote for limits on roaming charges as well as supporting amendments that would have promoted real net neutrality.
Pressure was applied at the end of the morning's debate by Andrus Ansip, the vice-commissioner responsible for the EU Digital Market. He said that if the text was not passed in its entirety now, there was "a risk of delays, not only months, but years," and that "risk" may have weighed with some MEPs. But Reda pointed out on Twitter that is not true: "Actually it's only 6 weeks until 3rd reading," when a new compromise text could have been agreed. One other reason MEPs may have been unwilling to change the text was that it has been going back and forth between the various institutions of the EU for years, and MEPs are evidently sick of discussing it, as the poor turn-out for the earlier debate showed. In the end, sheer political fatigue may have played a major part in undermining net neutrality in the EU.
However, the battle is not quite over. As Anne Jellema, CEO of the Web Foundation, which was established by Berners-Lee in 2009, notes in her response to today's EU vote: "The European Parliament is essentially tossing a hot potato to the Body of European Regulators, national regulators and the courts, who will have to decide how these spectacularly unclear rules will be implemented. The onus is now on these groups to heed the call of hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens and prevent a two-speed Internet."
Net neutrality: EU votes in favour of Internet fast lanes and slow lanes
[Glyn Moody/Ars Technica]