Today a U.S. appeals court issued a decision to uphold the FCC rules on net neutrality. The court’s decision is a decisive victory for pro net neutrality groups around the world because the biggest Internet innovator in the world is now leading the way to solid protections against discrimination on the Internet, with the notable exception of the issue of zero-rating, which was not part of the subject matter in the court case. In Europe, the final decision will be made by the European telecom regulators (BEREC) on 30 August. The public still has time to participate in BEREC's consultation until 18 July via www.savetheinternet.eu.
“We see a global trend towards protecting net neutrality by law. After the USA, India, Brazil, Canada, many Latin American countries and the Netherlands, the EU has to follow suit and not fall behind in protecting innovation, freedom of speech and competition online. We have until 18 July to convince our regulators to do the right thing,” says Thomas Lohninger, an activist from the savetheinternet.eu campaign.
The FCC’s 2015 rules on net neutrality are an example for Europe of how to best handle specialised services and traffic management. On these points, where the rules are clear, we haven't seen any abuses or discrimination by Internet service providers. On zero-rating (the commercial practice of excluding certain applications from a user’s monthly data cap) the FCC is following a case-by-case approach and only these types of discrimination have increased and are leading to restrictions of user-choice and innovation online.
On 6 June the EU telecom regulators (BEREC) published their draft guidelines on net neutrality in Europe and started a public consultation about these rules that will continue until 18 July. Although the underlying EU regulation would allow for a clear prohibition of harmful commercial practices like zero-rating, BEREC has missed the opportunity to issue bright-line rules in their draft guidelines. The experience from the U.S. should pose a warning to European regulators not to make the same mistake and fall behind with the level of protection and predictability afforded to European citizens and businesses.
The www.savetheinternet.eu campaign is a coalition of 22 civil liberties and consumer protection NGOs. Since 2013 it fights for strong net neutrality protections in the EU and currently offers an easy way for everyone to make their voice heard in the ongoing BEREC consultation.
The full court ruling can be read here.