New net neutrality guidelines from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) confirm strong protection for net neutrality, and for the free and open internet in the European Union.
"Based on a preliminary reading of the text, this is a triumph for the European digital rights movement. After a very long battle, and with the support of half a million people, the principles that make the Internet an open platform for change, freedom and prosperity are upheld in the EU", said net neutrality activist Thomas Lohninger from SaveTheInternet.eu.
"Europe is now a global standard-setter in the defence of the open, competitive and neutral Internet", said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights (EDRi). "We congratulate BEREC on its diligent work, its expertise and its refusal to bend to the unreasonable pressure placed on it by the big telecoms lobby", he added.
“BEREC has completed the work started by the EU legislators and delivered what the public have been asking repeatedly for the past three years: robust and clear protection for net neutrality”, added Estelle Massé, Senior Policy Analyst at Access Now. “The final guidelines are a true testament to BEREC’s hard work."
The guidelines adopted today are the final step in the three-year process of adopting net neutrality legislation in the European Union. In June 2016, BEREC launched a public consultation on implementation of net neutrality rules approved by the European Parliament last year. This consultation led to over half a million responses in support of strong net neutrality rules that were sent with the help of the SaveTheInternet.eu campaign.
Civil society now has to stay vigilant to ensure the enforcement of these new rules.
Net neutrality is a global issue. Following huge victories in the USA, India and Latin America, Europe has now cemented a global trend towards strong net neutrality protection. This is a cause for celebration.
Net neutrality is a principle that all the internet traffic has to be treated equally, without blocking or slowing down certain data. This is crucial for fair competition between online services, for innovation, and for freedom of expression online.
In September 2013, the European Commission proposed legislation which would have destroyed the open and competitive internet in Europe and would have set a disastrous example on a global level.
Subsequently, in April 2014, the European Parliament adopted amendments to overturn the European Commission's proposal.
In June 2015, negotiations between the EU Council and EU Commission (both opposed to net neutrality) and the European Parliament led to a compromise text which is ambiguous on some key points. It tasked BEREC with publishing guidelines, by 30 August 2016, to provide a common approach to implementing the Regulation in the EU Member States. This compromise text was adopted, following legal "scrubbing".
On 6 June 2016, BEREC published the draft guidelines for how the net neutrality Regulation should be implemented, together with the launch of a public consultation. The consultation gave citizens and innovative businesses the opportunity to provide their input and support a free and open internet. EDRi responded to the consultation, and encouraged citizens to send their answer to the consultation through the SaveTheInternet.eu. More than half a million messages were sent to BEREC through the platform.
- Seven versions of the campaign website (savetheinternet.eu) were prepared for every step of the legislative process.
- 40 000 fax messages were sent by individuals to Members of the European Parliament.
- Six marches in support of net neutrality were organised in cities across Europe.
- Over 500 000 responses to BEREC were sent by concerned internet users in support of the open, innovative and neutral Internet
***Note: This text is based on preliminary draft versions of the guidelines. A more detailed analysis will follow.