The Netherlands becomes first in Europe to pass net neutrality law

By Lee Kaelin on

The Netherlands has become the first EU member country to pass into law new net neutrality regulations, following in the footsteps of Chile, which became the first country in the world to make net neutrality laws back in July 2010. The new Telecom Law was approved unanimously by the Dutch Senate and is set to ensure that access to the internet remains neutral and unfiltered.

The move follows plans announced last year by Dutch telecoms provider KPN to increase mobile broadband prices and make allowance changes in the wake of increased data consumption for certain services over 3G, such as Skype and Whatsapp. KPN noted that the increased usage of these apps was reducing their average revenue per user and hurting profits.

Passing net neutrality regulations into law will mean that wireless operators will not be allowed to throttle or block any individual's internet services or price them differently according their internet usage. ISPs will still be allowed to throttle traffic in order to reduce congestion or protect their network, but they will be required to treat all traffic equally. Also, traffic can no longer be blocked unless it's absolutely necessary in order to protect the integrity and security of the network or users' computers.

Interestingly, there is one notable exception to this, with the inclusion of a clause that allows internet users to request their ISP to filter their connection as well as block certain services and applications based on religious or ideological grounds. Despite this, Dutch politicians remain concerned that the clause, added to the proposed law last year at the request of the Reformed Political Party, will open the doors to internet censorship. It's therefore unsurprising that they want to see it removed in a "repair amendment" set for May 15.

"Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital rights movement which campaigned for these provisions, applauds the new law. It considers this a historical moment for internet freedom in The Netherlands and calls on other countries to follow the Dutch example," the Dutch privacy group, Bits of Freedom said in a statement on their blog.

Also included in the newly approved law is the requirement for websites to ask internet users for permission to store cookies in their browsers before they can be used, although these provisions won't go into effect until 2013 as the EU requires time to address issues surrounding user tracking.

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