European Union Approves New Net Neutrality Rules to Guarantee Equal Access to the Internet

A Vodafone store in London. Proposed rules would cut cellphone charges, ending roaming charges across Europe. (Credit Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
A Vodafone store in London. Proposed rules would cut cellphone charges, ending roaming charges across Europe. (Credit Justin Tallis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

European lawmakers approved new rules on Thursday aimed at guaranteeing equal access to the Internet and cutting cellphone charges across the 28-member European Union.

The proposals, which had been subject to intense lobbying by industry groups and consumer advocates, mirror similar efforts in the United States to allow access by all companies and individuals to the Internet’s pipelines for services like streaming music, on-demand television and cloud computing.

The new legislation, which aims to create a single market for electronic communications across the bloc, faces more hurdles before it can become law.

The next European Parliament, to be elected in May, would still need to give a final endorsement of the rules, and individual countries would need to reach agreement with the Parliament and the European Commission on a reconciled version of the proposed law.

Any future horse trading, particularly over how telecom giants charge Internet companies for access to their data networks, may lead to changes in the final rules after domestic politicians and regulators provide feedback for the Pan-European proposals.

Despite the uncertainty, Internet companies and consumer advocacy groups voiced support on Thursday for the new rules, while telecom companies said the changes would potentially curtail investment in the Continent’s mobile and fixed-line Internet infrastructure.

European politicians inserted last-minute amendments intended to provide a strict definition of so-called net neutrality, which means that telecom companies and other Internet service providers cannot discriminate between different services that run on their data networks.

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SOURCE: MARK SCOTT and  
The New York Times