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Net neutrality in Europe: the road to here and the next steps

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
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Net neutrality in Europe: the road to here and the next steps

The Council of Europe started the progress towards European net neutrality by commissioning a framework for internet traffic management in 2013. Same year, the European Commission published its proposed draft Telecom Single Market Regulation, whose net neutrality provisions were criticised by civil society organisations for potential loopholes.

The official interpretation of the Regulation's provisions were deferred to the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC), which was given the deadline of 30 August 2016 to draft, consult and finalise the guidelines. Among the issues to be clarified were the validity of zero-rating practices and "specialised services".

BEREC collected almost 500,000 contributions during the consultation period, which were mostly supportive of strong net neutrality protections. Its final guidelines were welcomed by net neutrality advocates as providing a clear interpretation of the Regulation. As for zero-rating, the guidelines did not ban the practice but leave it to national regulators to assess its application on a case-by-case basis. Still, the guidelines take a stronger stance on the issue than the initial draft.

Although the BEREC guidelines are not a binding document, they have a crucial role in the implementation of net neutrality rules in Europe, as it is the official document on which national regulators should interpret the Regulation. If a national regulator's interpretation is questioned at court, it would be possible to take the case to the EU Court of Justice.

The guidelines are thus not the end, but net neutrality discussions in Europe will continue as national regulators proceed with implementing them. Moreover, the EU and EEA regulators will publish annual reports on the implementation of the net neutrality rules as defined in the guidelines, allowing BEREC to review the guidelines if necessary in the future.

Author

Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson

Date

2016-10-14 12:43

Author information

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