Leaked document shows extent of European Council’s opposition to net neutrality

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

May 21, 2015

You may remember about a month ago we covered the relaunch of the Save the Internet: Defend Net Neutrality in Europe campaign. This calls for citizens of the EU to write to their EU representatives in the Council of the European Union to insist on true net neutrality, and to urge MEP’s to resist the latest changes to the proposals for net neutrality – changes which many feel are a real threat to the future of the internet in Europe.

The problems that Europe is facing (in trying to get net neutrality agreed on) are due to the three-way power structure of the EU, which consists of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission.  So far, the European Parliament has been working hard to get net neutrality enshrined in law for its constituents, whereas the European Council has, time and time again, been throwing a spanner in the works (with the European Commission sandwiched somewhere in-between.)

The Save the Internet campaign is trying to put pressure on this ‘trilogue’, which is due to go into its third phase at some point in the coming months, allowing the three branches of the EU to come together and discuss their differences of opinion before a final decision is made.

Now, as that time approaches, new evidence has emerged that shows just how strongly the presidency of the Council of the EU (currently held by Latvia, and which is separate from the post of President) opposes true net neutrality in Europe. Apparently on the incredibly corrupt grounds that it will be easier to be re-elected by offering constituents the more widely understood (and therefore easier to market to voters) issue of roaming.

These claims come from French digital rights organization La Quadrature du Net, which has got hold of a leaked copy of a ‘non paper’ on the subject of net neutrality in Europe, purportedly written by the President of the Council (Donald Tusk, former prime minister of Poland) in preparation for the next session of the informal ‘trilogue’.

The ‘non paper’, which is a heavily edited document, removes all mention of net neutrality from the get-go, with Article 1 of Annex II being changed from, ‘This Regulation establishes common rules on aiming at ensuring open internet access offered by providers of electronic communications to the public, safeguarding end-users’ rights and ensuring non-discriminatory treatment of traffic,’  to simply  ‘This Regulation establishes common rules to ensure open internet access.’

From there it continues in the same vane. Article 2’s definition of net neutrality:

‘The principle according to which all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, independently of its sender, recipient, type, content, device, service or application,’ is deleted completely.

The definition for ‘internet access service’ also sees the key phrase, ‘in accordance with the principle of net neutrality,’ completely removed.

Also worrisome, according to the leaked text, is that traffic management measures would no longer need to be ‘compliant with the principle of equal treatment,’ but instead ‘shall be based on objectively different technical quality of service requirements of specific classes of traffic.’ This effectively allowing for different types of traffic to be allocated different speeds on the same connection.

Although the document is just a proposal at this stage, with the third meeting of the ‘trilogue’ approaching it is a very serious (and worrying) indication of the presidency’s stance on net neutrality. The fact that every mention of net neutrality has been redacted shows just how little interest there is within this particular group of protecting a fair and equal internet for all.

Once again, we urge any citizens of the EU to join the  Save the Internet: Defend Net Neutrality in Europe campaign and write to your local representatives in the Council of the European Union, calling on your MEP to loudly voice insistence on net neutrality at the next session of the informal tripartite meetings.

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