We're rallying the Internet to inundate BEREC with comments from people demanding that they close the loopholes.
If we lose, lax EU net neutrality guidelines could soon let EU ISPs effectively slow anyone's content.
The biggest problem is that the EU guidelines right now allow class-based traffic management, which lets ISPs throttle video, BitTorrent, or VPNs at will. Right now, tons of ISPs worldwide, and many in Europe, throttle BitTorrent. In the US, thanks to the rules we won, ISPs aren't allowed to do this. Not your home connection. Not on mobile. If you can prove they're doing it, you can complain to the FCC and make them stop. But in Europe it's another story–tons of ISPs do it, and only a few countries have rules against it.
Under the proposal, ISPs are instructed to discriminate against and throttle whole classes of traffic when managing their networks. That means, for example, peer-to-peer traffic could be throttled before traffic from streaming video services, even if the peer-to-peer traffic is in fact using less bandwidth. VPN traffic could be throttled simply because ISPs wouldn't be able to determine what category it is.
And this mass throttling could be done as a standard operating procedure, not just for times when there is excessive congestion on a network. Under the rules, ISPs can engage in class-based throttling whenever they believe congestion is 'impending,' which, if you consider the chaotic nature of the Internet, could really be whenever.
It would also allow zero rating, a practice whereby ISPs exempt their own apps and services, and those of their partners, from monthly data caps. These arrangements incentivize ISPs to reduce data allowances (EU ISPs that engage in zero rating give, on average, 50% less data each month for the same price) and they give ISPs more control over what we do online.
These loopholes allow ISPs to violate net neutrality's basic principles, and they will ensure that Europe's Internet continues to lag behind the rest of the developed world. Innovation will stall, freedom of expression will be limited, and ISPs will cement their gatekeeper status on the Internet. Europe is the world's largest economy. What happens to the Internet in Europe profoundly affects Internet freedom around the world.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Up to this point, the dominant voices in shaping these rules have been the telecom lobbyists. Companies like Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Vodafone lobbied hard to get the EU Parliament to punt many of the most important decisions to BEREC, and now the loophole-filled guidelines that BEREC has released make it clear that their strategy has worked. They got more out of BEREC than they ever would have been able to get if these decisions were made in the original legislation.
Now it's our turn. We've made it super simple to submit a comment to BEREC in support of net neutrality. Click here to file your comment now.
If you run a website, blog, or Tumblr, you can be even more effective at fighting these bad net neutrality guidelines in the EU by running our banner widget on your site. Simply embed this one line of code on your page. You can customize look and feel, or the text, if you want.