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Net neutrality in the air after EU Parliament votes in favor of TSM

The European Parliament has voted in favor of a telecommunications bill that drops roaming charges across the EU. However, the bill also threatens net neutrality in the 28-nation bloc.

The European Parliament Tuesday voted in favor of the Telecommunications Single Market (TSM) bill after amendments proposed by several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were rejected.

"Today's vote puts an end to the legislative vote on the TSM. The parliament has shown leadership throughout the…process," said MEP Pilar del Castillo Vera after the EU Parliament passed the bill.

"There can be no doubt that the Internet is a valuable asset. It is full of opportunities for all. We need to handle this asset very carefully. This regulation establishes the guarantees required to ensure the Internet gives equal access to all without discrimination," Castillo Vera noted.

The TSM effectively ensures that telecommunications companies cannot charge mobile users while roaming within the 28-nation union.

Net neutrality in danger?

However, the bill also made telecommunications regulators and courts the final arbiters of net neutrality, leaving the Internet's future under their mandate.

"We are disappointed that the European Parliament has decided not to legislate on this critical issue," Estelle Masse, policy analyst at digital rights organization Access Now, said in a statement.

"By not supporting the necessary amendments to give clarity to the text, the Parliament has left it up to courts and national regulators to determine its meaning," Masse noted.

The

bill's language remains vague

with regards to the establishment of so-called "fast lanes" and zero-rating schemes.

'Determined'

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee said earlier this week that if the text remained unchanged, it could "threaten innovation" within the 28-nation bloc.

However, critics of the bill in its current form remain committed to ensuring net neutrality, or the concept of an open Internet that is treated equally, and "without discrimination, restriction or interference regardless of its sender, recipient, type or content."

"We are determined to work closely with regulatory authorities in order to bring the necessary clarity to the text during the nine-month consultation period," Massed said.

"The fight for net neutrality is not over. The EU telecoms regulators are now tasked to finish the work started by the EU legislators to ensure that free expression online is protected."

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