Well it was a pretty great day for the Netherlands on May 9th 2012. The cause for celebration was the passing into law of a Net Neutrality regulation. The law has been coming for a while now, having been agreed upon in June of last year. But the nation’s second legislative chamber finally gave its approval and made the legislation an official law. Hurrah!
But what is Net Neutrality? Well in laymens terms, Net Neutrality is described as the principle that there should be no restrictions by internet service providers or governments on consumers’ access to networks online. Net Neutrality prevents restrictions on content and modes of communication. What Net Neutrality is concerned with is the ability of broadband providers to use their infrastructures to block internet applications or content to limit what the consumer has access to and weed out competitors. For example, if a certain provider had a relationship with Apple, they could make it so that any site containing iPhone content would load faster than a site promoting Android.
So how is this new law going to have a real effect? For one, it sets the Netherlands on what I consider to be the right path. The internet is the free transfer of information and ideas and it should remain that way. But, as a far more concrete example of what the law will do is force internet providers to figure out how to compete for their consumers and manage their networks. The mobile internet provider KPN for example had planned to charge for access to services like Skype or throttle traffic through them as a means to manage their mobile traffic. Now KPN wont be able to do that.
Of course the law does grant certain exceptions for why internet service may be slowed, for network congestion or security reasons, but the law effectively tells all internet service providers that they must be blind to the traffic they carry and treat all sites and content equally. The Net Neutrality law also has a few provisions for anti-wiretapping and makes it illegal to use deep packet inspections on a user’s internet activities without either their legal consent or a warrant.
The passing of this law is certainly a historic moment within the European Union and a great day for privacy and internet freedom. Hopefully more laws like this one are on the way.