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EU dumps net neutrality

July 17, 2013

German business daily Handelsblatt has reported the EU Commission plans to allow Internet providers to charge customers for higher speeds and better service quality. The policy is part of new EU rules on Internet access.

Image: Fotolia/m.schuckart

The European Union's Executive Commission was willing to dump a previous policy ensuring equal treatment of Internet users by banning additional charges for higher speeds and better transmission quality, the German business daily Handelsblatt reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said it was in possession of a document outlining the regulation, which was to become part of Commission legislation governing Internet access in the 28-nation bloc.

Content Providers and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were free to negotiate agreements on volume tariffs and different qualities of data transmission for Internet users, Handelsblatt quoted the document as saying.

The new rule would undo the EU's previous policy of ensuring so-called network neutrality - a principle which states that ISPs must not give any content preferential treatment and that any video, article or web page should get just as much bandwidth as another.

Supporters of net neutrality warn that if the policy is abandoned, ISPs will create fast lanes for web traffic on which content from paying providers will be given priority of those who don't pay.

German Economics Minister Philipp Rösler strongly criticized the proposal, which according to Handelsblatt was worked out by EU Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes.

"What we've seen in terms of a draft law is not enough to ensure network neutrality," he told Handelsblatt. He also said he would stick to plans for independent German legislation on the issue.

Earlier this year, Rösler was one of the staunchest critics of attempts by German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom to impose data limits on Internet connections. After a public outcry, the company eventually gave up its plan to throttle the speed for heavy Internet users.

uhe/kms (dpa, AFP)