Open Internet campaigners are celebrating after Europe's top telecommunications regulator recently published their net neutrality guidelines, which appear to take a hard-line stance in favor of net neutrality.
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) guidelines, released on Tuesday, aims to preserve an equal treatment of Internet traffic regardless of its content or source. Open Internet advocates argue the move will help ensure the Internet stays true to its roots as a non-discriminatory, open platform that doesn't favor big business over the average online citizen.
Previously, a legal loophole allowed companies to obtain faster Internet speeds for their apps or services by paying off the Internet service providers. Equally, the service providers were allowed to slow down the speed of traffic for certain types of content or users. Such was the case for US Internet service provider Comcast in 2007, who came under fire for “data discrimination”.
The new BEREC guidelines now aim to close these fast lanes unless the need for a “special service” to have priority is absolutely necessary. These special services could include high-quality voice calling, live broadcasting, and real-time health services such as remote surgery.
It also means that Internet service providers who restrict access to pornography could be breaking EU guidelines, according to the Guardian.
Click here to see the full PDF of the guidelines.
In July, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, launched an impassioned campaign to save the open Internet in Europe. The campaign managed to gather 476,752 people and more than 90 top entrepreneurs to sign a petition in favor of enshrining net neutrality.
The SaveTheInternet.eu campaign released a post thanking people for their support, saying: “This summer, hundreds of thousands of Internet users banded together to keep the Internet open and free.... And it worked!”
“The public has made clear that [it] will not leave the future of its digital public space to big telco lobbyists, but wants to decide for itself,” it continued. They added that the BEREC guidelines “offer some of the strongest net neutrality protections we could wish for.”
This news comes after the US Courts ruled in 2015 that everyone should have equal access to all content on the Internet.
It isn’t clear how these guidelines will affect the UK, following their recent vote to leave the EU. In a statement from June, telecoms lawyer Reg Dhanjal said that UK regulator OFCOM has contributed to the recently released BEREC guidelines. However, he added, “with the Brexit vote it may in time set out its own net neutrality guidance. Those guidelines will likely be informed by the EU approach to net neutrality but could potentially contain some differences to the EU regime."