EU makes decisions on net neutrality, and nobody is sure what they meanBy Stephen Libbey
While the debate regarding net neutrality has been settled in the US, at least at the moment, things have been still up in the air across the pond in the EU. Now some decisions have finally been made by the combined efforts of the European Commission, European Parliament and the EU Council and they have decided... well, actually it's still not clear what they've decided. Depending on what you read, and how you read it, the EU has either protected net neutrality, or utterly destroyed it.
Engadget has the story which says that net neutrality has been protected. Roaming charges will be completely done away with by mid 2017, and by April of 2016 internet providers will not be allowed to block or throttle back on content and any sort of internet "fast lane" will be against the law.
However, at the same time Ars Technica points out there's an exception to the rule. While there will be an "open internet" where everything will run at the same speed, there will be "specialized services" where companies will be able to pay extra in order to receive priority. That certainly sounds like the exact opposite of net neutrality.
The EU argument for these services is that by offering consistent faster speeds that entirely new offerings that don't exist today may be possible, new opportunities for IPTV was the example given. These services would be given a dedicated connection so they would technically be entirely separate from the rest of the internet. It seems like they're trying to set up a system similar to OTA television and premium cable. If you want HBO you have to pay for it, but it doesn't impact that you can still get the broadcast networks for free.
It is a requirement that the specialized services may not affect anything within the open internet so it seems that your perspective on the fate of net neutrality in Europe depends on your view of these specialized services. Are they a fast lane, or are they something wholly separate from the open internet? It may come down to a simple question of which sites become classified as specialized services.
At the end of the day data is data and net neutrality argues that all data should be treated equally so this situation seems a little sketchy for anybody claiming that net neutrality is secure. It will be sometime before we see it in action however so time will be the ultimate judge.
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