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February 18 2014

February 12 2014

EU Parliament Civil Liberties Committee Paves the Way for Real Net Neutrality

Brussels, 12 February 2014 — Today, the “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) committee of the European Parliament adopted its opinion report on the European single market for electronic communications. Key amendments were adopted which, if included in the final text, would guarantee that network neutrality becomes an enforceable rule across all of the European Union. La Quadrature du Net warns against attempts in the Industry committee (ITRE), the lead committee on this dossier, to adopt watered-down amendments that would allow telecommunication operators to distribute specialised services in a way that would radically undermine freedom of communication and innovation on the Internet.

Thanks to amendments tabled by the Greens, S&D and ALDE groups, solid formulations of key articles 2(15)1 and 232 and their related recitals, as well as provisions on specialised services and those that ensure enforcement of Net neutrality are now included in the report of the Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee. The PPE rapporteur, Salvador Sedó i Alabart (ES - EPP), himself supported some useful provisions. La Quadrature du Net thanks all Members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) who contributed to this vote.

The text adopted must now become the reference for the remaining of the legislative process, especially for the ITRE committee which will make the final recommendations to the rest of the Parliament on this dossier. However, severe concerns remain regarding the outcome of the vote in the ITRE committee. The lead rapporteur, Mrs. Pilar del Castillo Vera (ES - EPP), is proposing compromise amendments that are scandalously open to abuse by telecommunication operators. What is more, these amendments totally ignore the substance of the better amendments tabled by other ITRE MEPs – including members of her own political group3. Lastly, they are in marked contradiction with the important amendments approved in the LIBE committee today, that would ensure that the regulation protects fundamental rights.

It is worrying that at this stage, even the shadow rapporteurs of political groups that support the good amendments, are extremely timid in their opposition to the rapporteur's position. Supporting del Castillo's compromise amendments means ignoring the interests and rights of European citizens and giving a blank check for telecom operators to engage in illegitimate discrimination in Internet communications. All shadow rapporteurs in the ITRE committee – Jens Rohde (DK - ALDE), Catherine Trautmann (FR - S&D), Amelia Andersdotter (SE - Greens/EFA), Giles Chichester (UK - ECR) – must therefore make their position public, so that they can be held accountable for the final ITRE report, which will be voted on 24 February. If they, or other members of their groups, refuse to listen to recommendations by MEPs of their own group in the LIBE committee, and adopt the weak or even anti-Net neutrality compromise amendments, European citizens will hold them accountable, especially in the upcoming European elections.

“European citizens must tell the members of the Industry committee that the only deserving approach is to reject Mrs. Pilar del Castillo Vera's so-called ''compromise amendments'' and that they should adopt the same amendments to articles 2(15) and 23 as in the LIBE committee. To preserve the Internet's contribution to innovation and freedom of communication, European law should clearly ban telecom operators from marketing specialised services that are functionally equivalent to online services delivered on the Internet, thereby bypassing Net neutrality” declares Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

“Every vote will count on February 24th, when the Industry committee adopts its final report on the proposed regulation. We call on all of its members to reject the position of the rapporteur Pilar Del Castillo Vera and vote for the key amendments adopted by the Civil Liberties committee, which can ensure that fundamental rights as well as competition and innovation are protected on the open Internet”, concludes Miriam Artino, legal and policy analyst at La Quadrature du Net.

Every European citizen can act to influence the evolution of Net neutrality by calling on their MEPs to establish solid protections of the free Internet. To get on board, please visit the campaign website savetheinternet.eu.

Act now!

  • 1. Article 2(15): “"specialised service" means an electronic communications service or any other service that provides the capability to access specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, and whose technical characteristics are controlled from end-to-end or provides the capability to send or receive data to or from a determined number of parties or endpoints; and that is not marketed or widely used as a substitute for internet access service;”
  • 2. Article 23, on “Freedom to provide and avail of open internet access, and reasonable traffic management”
  • 3. See: http://edri.org/bad-leadership-kill-open-internet-europe/

February 06 2014

EU Parliament Will Soon Vote on the Fate of Net Neutrality in Europe

Paris, 6 February 2014 — In the coming days, committees of the European Parliament will decide the fate of Net neutrality in Europe. Ahead of European elections, our representatives cannot miss this opportunity to truly defend EU citizens' rights, protect communications online and thus guarantee freedom of expression and information throughout Europe.

In early September, the EU Commission adopted its anti-Net neutrality Regulation. The legislative process in the EU Parliament will soon take a crucial step, as the Industry (ITRE) committee – the leading committee responsible for this file – will vote on the final report on 24 February. In the meantime, next Wednesday, 12 February, the Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee will adopt its opinion report which will feed back into the debate in the ITRE committee. After these last two votes the fate of Net neutrality in Europe will almost be sealed. The next and final step of the parliamentary procedure being the vote in the EU Parliament plenary, currently scheduled for early April.

Unfortunately, the current political climate makes it hard to predict any outcome. On one hand, MEPs in support of Net neutrality propose to beef up this principle:

  • ensuring that traffic prioritisation will not result in anti-competitive deals between service providers and telecom operators
  • providing elements to enforce Net neutrality at the national and European levels.

On the other hand, other MEPs – in particular Pilar del Castillo Vera (ES - EPP), lead rapporteur on this dossier, and Jens Rohde (DN - ALDE), shadow rapporteur for the ALDE group – seek to spare the telecom lobbies and remain evasive on these important issues.

The main hope for the protection of the open Internet lies now with the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) since their shadow rapporteur, Catherine Trautmmann (FR - S&D) – contrary to the EPP and ALDE rapporteurs – has already driven her group towards the formulation of good proposals1. However, these proposals still leave serious voids and need to be improved. In particular, it is mandatory to avoid any anti-competitive practices – due to the introduction of specialised services – and clarify that no service already available on the Internet could be reproduced as a specialised service in a closed network. Speaking of which, it is encouraging to notice that some socialist MEPs, such as Françoise Castex (FR - S&D), have already tabled strong amendments in this respect. Moreover, Dimitrios Droutsas (GR - S&D) – in view of the LIBE opinion – has recently tabled amendments2 geared to eliminate those risks and thus reinforce his group's position. However, for these amendments to be useful, it is mandatory that the Socialist rapporteur defend them in the ITRE committee. Will Catherine Trautmann take up the challenge to seriously fight against anti-Net neutrality provisions and finally, respond to the concerns expressed by citizen advocacy groups?

“Neither the EU Commission nor the EU Parliament rapporteur Pilar Del Castillo have clearly formulated their stand on Net neutrality. For dubious reasons, they refuse to even address proposals made by citizen groups from all across Europe. As crucial votes on Net neutrality get closer, a broad citizen mobilisation can ensure that MEPs are held accountable for what they vote for, especially in light of upcoming European elections”, concludes Félix Tréguer, cofounder of the association La Quadrature du Net.

For more information, please read our last analysis here.

Every European citizen can act to influence the evolution of Net neutrality by calling on their MEPs to establish solid protections of the free Internet. To get on board, please visit the campaign website savetheinternet.eu.

Act now!

  • 1. She co-authored amendments on the creation of an enforcement mechanism to ensure a genuine Net neutrality (AD 678); the introduction of the freedom to connect any device to the network (AD 585); the insertion of a functional separation of specialised services from the open Internet (AD 360).
  • 2. AD LIBE 34, 54, 95

January 30 2014

EU Parliament Still Divided on the Issue of Net Neutrality

The proposal of the European Commission on Net neutrality is currently discussed within the European Parliament. Committees appointed for opinion have already expressed their point of view on this text – except the Civil liberties (LIBE) committee, whose report will be voted on February 12th.

Opinion Reports bring potential improvements

Since last summer, La Quadrature du Net and others have expressed several doubts and concerns on the proposal of the European Commission.

In order to fill those legal voids, on December 2013, La Quadrature du Net proposed a batch of amendments, whose main goal was to help Members of the European Parliament to:

  • follow the BEREC guidelines for Quality of Service in the scope of Net neutrality, clarifying specialised services have to be operated within closed electronic communications networks;
  • stress that a specialised service shall not reiterate a service functionally identical to a service already available on the open Internet, in order not to circumvent Net neutrality and boost innovation in the digital economy;
  • better define the nature of a reasonable traffic management practice;
  • cover the freedom to connect any devices to the network;
  • endow regulatory authorities with legal instruments geared to: monitor and report on Internet traffic management measures; put in place clear procedures to address citizens’complaints on the infringement of Net neutrality; be in capacity to sanction Net neutrality breaches.

The outcomes of this first "round of voting" open a window on the future and crucial steps of the procedure. Committees appointed for opinions have indeed proposed some improvements to the original text of the European Commission such as the deletion of article 19 on Assured Quality of Services products1, the introduction of an enforcement mechanism or the deletion of "serious crime" as a condition for the implementation of any traffic management measure.

However, it remains to be seen whether Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee will accept to take these opinions into account when its own report – directed to influence the final position of the European Parliament as a whole – will be adopted on February 24th. In any case, on specialised services and the definition of Net neutrality, which are crucial aspects of any Net neutrality legislation, much remains to be done.

Key aspects of Net neutrality still missing

The last week vote in Internal Market (IMCO) committee demonstrates how the Net neutrality principle is still in danger. For example, the definition of specialised services therein adopted, is very far from being satisfactory2: the compromise reached does not clarify indeed that the dividing line between a specialised service and an internet access service is whether or not that service is operated within closed network and is already available over the open Internet. Furthermore the provision aimed at “deploying traffic management to ensure the appropriate level of network capacity and quality”, if maintained, will de facto become a gaping loophole in the Regulation, allowing providers to discriminate on the basis of contents.

The same kind of approach on specialised services has been adopted in Legal Affairs (JURI) committee, where the amendment carried also opens the doors to anti-competitive practices3. The Members of the European Parliament have to be aware that refusing to complete the definition of specialised services would mean to definitely compromise the free choice of Internet users and their wonderful potential of creativity and innovation4.

Furthermore, JURI committee rejected the excellent amendment 615, tabled by Marietje Schaake (NL - ALDE) and Cecilia Wikström (SE - ALDE), pleading for a reinforcement of the Net neutrality principle, by protecting the right of every single user to connect any hardware device to access the Internet.

Del Castillo and Rohde against everyone else?

On February 24th, the text will be voted in ITRE committee, responsible for the file; the report adopted at that time will be thereafter submitted to the whole European Parliament, during the last plenary sitting of this legislation, currently scheduled for April 2nd. Unluckily, this committee raises several concerns.

First of all, the rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo Vera (ES - EPP), has refused, since the beginning of the decision-making process, to introduce or promote amendments guaranteeing a true protection of Net neutrality. Although she is wary of clearly displaying her opposition to a definition of specialised services BEREC-oriented, her public statements plead in favour of “an inclusive approach” supposed to guarantee the fruition of an open Internet. But what does she mean exactly? Why a stricter definition of specialised services could harm any player's possibility to navigate and benefit of an open Internet? Why a greater guarantee for European citizens to benefit of their right to communicate without interferences would challenge the existence of an open Internet? Why does she not have the political bravery to state that Net neutrality is not something she cares about, as potentially problematic for telecom giants? At least, it would be more clear and honest for her constituency.

Secondly, Jens Rohde (DK - ALDE), shadow rapporteur for the ALDE group, did not even make the effort to table amendments on those critical subjects and he did nothing but state to share Pilar del Castillo Vera’s positions. This passive attitude is quite deplorable; all the more so as there is considerable number of dissenting voices within his group. Excellent amendments have been tabled in various committees by his fellow party members Sophia in 't Veld (NL - ALDE), Marietje Schaake, Cecilia Wikström, Nadja Hirsch (DE - ALDE), Alexander Alvaro (DE - ALDE), who genuinely defend and reinforce the Net neutrality principle. These voices cannot go unheeded.

The fate of Net neutrality in the hands of socio-democrats?

However, the Net neutrality fringe within the ALDE group is not the only one in the European Parliament. Aside the excellent work made by the Greens – headed by their shadow rapporteur Amelia Andersdotter (SE - Greens/EFA) – we also observed good inputs coming from socialists, headed by Mrs. Catherine Trautmann (FR - S&D), as shadow rapporteur for her group, and Dimitrios Droutsas (GR - S&D), as Vice-president of ITRE committee.

As Mrs. Herczog (HU - S&D) recently stated speaking on behalf of Catherine Trautmann, the Socialists seem to attach a great importance to a clearer definition of specialised services. Unluckily, even if the amendment 3606 – cosigned by Trautmann, Madurell (ES - S&D), Droutsas and Herczog – goes in the right direction, it really needs to be improved in order to prevent that a service functionally identical to another available on the open Internet could be commercialised. This provision is essential to guarantee a fair competition and innovation within the European single market for electronic communications and create all guarantees necessary to a genuine implementation of the Net neutrality principle.

Mrs. Trautmann, as the person with the most authority for her role, competence and experience on this kind of issues, is the only one in capacity to fight against the anti-Net neutrality and anti-competitive positions existing within ITRE committee. And she can do it, all the more so as her colleague Dimitrios Droutsas, with who she signed the insufficient amendment 360 on the definition of specialised services, realised the importance of a further clarification on that field. As a matter of fact, in view of the adoption of LIBE opinion, Mr. Droutsas later tabled the amendment 547, which includes civil society suggestions and clearly addresses the anti-competitive risk raised by specialised services. Let's hope Droutsas' input, with the unconditional support of Mrs. Trautmann, can become the firm and official position of the S&D group as a whole, in order to have a powerful counterbalance to the unacceptable positions entrenched so far by Pilar del Castillo Vera, and endorsed by Jens Rohde.

In the wake of the civil society organisations' calls and the amount of amendments tabled in defence of Net neutrality, it would be completely unacceptable if the members of ITRE committee were to capitulate in the face of the telecom lobby. The European Parliament must bring comprehensive protections to Net neutrality, so as to protect freedom of expression and promote innovation in the digital economy.

Next four weeks will thereby determine the fate of Net neutrality in Europe; every European citizen can act and have an actual influence on the evolution of this file, by getting in touch with their MEPs and calling on them to bring comprehensive protections to the free Internet. To get on board, please visit the campaign website savetheinternet.eu.

By Miriam Artino, in charge of legal and political analysis for La Quadrature du Net

  • 1. The article deleted reads:
    “1. Any operator shall have the right to provide a European ASQ connectivity product as specified in paragraph 4.
    2. Any operator shall meet any reasonable request to provide a European ASQ connectivity product as specified in paragraph 4 submitted in writing by an authorised provider of electronic communications services. Any refusal to provide a European ASQ product shall be based on objective criteria. The operator shall state the reasons for any refusal within one month from the written request. It shall be deemed to be an objective ground of refusal that the party requesting the supply of a European ASQ connectivity product is unable or unwilling to make available, whether within the Union or in third countries, a European ASQ connectivity product to the requested party on reasonable terms, if the latter so requests.
    3. Where the request is refused or agreement on specific terms and conditions, including price, has not been reached within two months from the written request, either party is entitled to refer the issue to the relevant national regulatory authority pursuant to Article 20 of Directive 2002/21/EC. In such a case, Article 3(6) of this Regulation may apply.
    4. The provision of a connectivity product shall be considered as the provision of a European ASQ connectivity product if it is supplied in accordance with the minimum parameters listed in Annex II and cumulatively meets the following substantive requirements:
    (a) ability to be offered as a high quality product anywhere in the Union;
    (b) enabling service providers to meet the needs of their end-users;
    (c) cost-effectiveness, taking into account existing solutions that may be provided on the same networks;
    (d) operational effectiveness, in particular in respect of limiting to the extent possible implementation obstacles and deployment costs for customers; and
    (e) ensuring that the rules on protection of privacy, personal data, security and integrity of networks and transparency in accordance with Union law are respected.
    5. The Commission shall be empowered to adopt delegated acts in accordance with Article 32 in order to adapt Annex II in light of market and technological developments, so as to continue to meet the substantive requirements listed in paragraph 4.”
  • 2. The amendment reads “'specialised service' means an electronic communications service, optimised for specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, by deploying traffic management to ensure the appropriate level of network capacity and quality, provided over logically distinct capacity and relying on strict admission control, with a view to securing enhanced quality characteristics which are controlled from end-to-end and that is not marketed or used as a substitute for internet access services”
  • 3. The amendment reads: “'specialised service' means an electronic communications service or any other service that are provided using the Internet Protocol and operated within closed electronic communications networks relying on admission control that provide the capability to access specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, based on extensive use of traffic management in order to ensure adequate service characteristics; and that is not marketed or widely used as a substitute for internet access service”
  • 4. After the adoption of the Regulation, a reflection could be launched to consider the possibility of allowing prioritization of Internet communications, as long as three main conditions are met: i) that such Quality of Service be application-agnostic (applied indiscriminately to different online services or applications); ii) that such Quality of Service be under the full control of the user so as to preserve the key architectural features of the Internet; iii) that the best-effort Internet be protected from degradation caused by the development of guaranteed QoS, for instance by ensuring a “sufficient quality of service” for the best-effort traffic delivery model (a notion already in use in some EU countries).
    On propositions for such positive discrimination and its relationship to Net neutrality, see the work of prof. Barbara van Schewick: https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2012/06/network-non-discrimination-and-quality-service
  • 5. The amendment reads: “End-users have the right to access and distribute information and content, run applications and use services or devices of their choice via their internet access service, in accordance with the principle of net neutrality.”
  • 6. The amendment reads: “‘specialised service’ means an electronic communications service or any other service that provides the capability to access or use specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, in order to ensure adequate characteristics from end-to-end. A specialised service is operated within closed electronic communications networks and thus clearly separated from internet access services and is not marketed or used as a substitute for internet access service”
  • 7. The amendment reads: “‘specialised service’ means an electronic communications service or any other service operated within closed electronic communications networks using the Internet Protocol with strict admission control that is not marketed or used as a substitute for internet access service; and that is not functionally identical to services available over the public internet”

January 15 2014

EU Parliament Committee on "Civil Liberties" Must Address Free Expression in Anti-Net Neutrality Proposal

Paris, 15 January 2014 — A few weeks before a crucial vote on the future European Regulation on the Single Market of telecommunication in Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee, La Quadrature du Net just sent the following email to all the Member of this committee, inviting them to propose strong amendments in favor of fundamental rights to the lead committee on this dossier, the Industry (ITRE) committee.

Citizens interested in taking part in the EU-wide campaign in favor of Net neutrality and freedoms online should visit the website savetheinternet.eu, and contact their representatives to urge them to protect this fundamental principle.

Dear Member of the LIBE committee,

The proposal of the European Commission 2013(627) final on the European Single Market for electronic communications will be voted next month in ITRE, the responsible committee of the file.

At this stage, five committees – LIBE included – are working on draft opinion.

On December 10th, Mr. Salvador Sedò i Alarbart, the rapporteur appointed in LIBE committee, presented his draft opinion.

La Quadrature du Net welcomes the amendment proposed by Mr. Sedò i Alarbart since they generally protect rights to privacy and personal data, as well as the confidentiality of communication, essential prerequisites for the development of an open Internet respectful of fundamental rights. However, these undeniable improvements – needing though some adjustments as explained in the document linked below – are not sufficient to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the European citizens on Internet.

In particular, no amendment has been tabled on specialised services, which represent the most important loophole of the Regulation and endanger freedom of expression as well as innovation online.

On January the 16th you will be called to table amendments on Mr. Sedò i Alabart opinion. As a member of the LIBE committee you owe the duty and the responsibility to defend the rights and freedoms of the European citizens, as a whole.

To that purpose La Quadrature du Net suggests that you:

We trust that you will remain committed to protecting the Internet commons from the harmful business logics, and remain at your entire disposal for any clarification you may need.

Sincerely,

La Quadrature du Net

January 14 2014

SaveTheInternet.eu: Act Now For Net Neutrality!

Paris, 14 January 2014 — A few weeks before crucial steps on the future European Regulation on the Single Market of telecommunication, a coalition of European organisations released the following joint press calling citizens to make their voices heard and to urge their MEPs to protect Net neutrality.

Net neutrality campaign – SaveTheInternet.eu

A broad coalition of civil Liberties NGOs launched SaveTheInternet.eu, a campaign to protect Net neutrality in upcoming EU legislation. A recent proposal from the European Commission will restrict freedom of speech on the Internet, increase prices and stifle online innovation unless urgent action is taken. Citizens should contact parliamentarians in the European Parliament's Industry Committee and urge them to defend the open Internet.

After four years during which no action was taken to protect the open Internet, the Commission's new proposals would achieve the opposite result. The Regulation would allow Internet companies to arbitrarily interfere with Internet traffic, prioritising the services of cash rich online companies to the detriment of innovation and free speech. Some of the worst Net neutrality violations we have seen in Europe over the last years will become legal through loopholes in the proposed rules on so-called “specialised services”. What is more, the Commission's text would allow "voluntary" ad hoc policing and surveillance activities for Internet access providers - in clear breach of the European Union's own legal obligations.

There is unanimous criticism from NGOs on this Draft Regulation. Civil society groups are furious that the proposal does not reflect the balance of views presented to the Commission in the consultations held on the subject. Groups are also critical of the fact that the measure is now being rushed through the legislative process. Of biggest concern is the fact that big telecoms operators are being offered the chance to impose old, inefficient, expensive and outdated telephony business models on the currently efficient and cost-effective internet.

Citizens now need to weigh in this crucial debate for the future of the Internet. The Regulation is now in the hands of the European Parliament, who has a golden opportunity to correct the text's dangerous loopholes and introduce necessary safeguards to protect the open and neutral Internet.

Time is running out. The European Parliament's Industry Committee will adopt amendments to the draft Regulation on February 27th. In the next six weeks each and every European who cares about the Internet should contact members of the European Parliament to make their voices heard.

SaveTheInternet.eu is the website that offers all the tools and information one needs to do just that. It provides all necessary information about the Regulation, the process and the arguments against it. Through SaveTheInternet.eu, every citizen can then call their MEPs free of charge or send them an e-mail to urge them to amend the text and bring strong legal protections to fundamental rights and innovation on the Internet.

This campaign is carried out by:

December 13 2013

Net Neutrality's Fate in Europe in the Hands of a Few MEPs?

Paris, 14 December 2013 — A few days before the deadline for Members of the European Parliament to table amendments on the anti-Net neutrality Kroes' proposal, within the ITRE committee, La Quadrature du Net sent them out its own proposal of amendments. From now and until December 17th, citizens must contact their representatives and urge them to alter Neelie Kroes' proposal and ensure that European citizens can definitely benefit from a genuine and unconditional Net neutrality.

Support La Quadrature du Net!

Last Monday, Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP - Spain), rapporteur for the proposal of the Commission on the European Single Market for electronic communications, introduced her draft report before the members of the “Industry” (ITRE) committee. Until December 17th, Members of the European Parliament will be in capacity to table amendments and could concretely defend the freedoms of the European citizens and protect their electronic communications. Supposed to give the main orientations on the issue, the draft of the rapporteur will be ostensibly the basis for discussions within the ITRE committee and, consequently, within the whole EU Parliament, once the report will be voted in plenary sitting.

Since del Castillo's report proposes the very same heavily criticized1 anti-Net neutrality provisions contained in Neelie Kroes' proposal, the contribution of every single Member of the European Parliament by the end-date of December 17th, is increasingly necessary and strongly recommended. By now, the future of Net Neutrality in the European Union largely depends on the vote of the ITRE committee and the amendments its members will adopt next year, on February 27th: good amendments2 can lead to an EU-wide meaningful protection of Net neutrality. On the contrary, adopting industry-oriented amendments, will basically destroy this essential principle and deeply undermine altogether freedom of communication on the Internet, privacy, but also competition and innovation in digital economy.

Some MEPs appear to have heard the numerous criticisms expressed against Kroes' loopholes, as Catherine Trautmann (S&D - France) or Marietje Schaake (ALDE - Netherlands). Since they publicly announced3 their opposition to Kroes' proposal, they have the ethical obligation to prevent the adoption of its most dangerous provisions.

Until December 17th, citizens must act and urge their MEPs to table positive amendments, and to not just follow the insufficient suggestions made by the rapporteur. In particular, they must better specify the nature and the characteristics of specialised services and provide enforcement mechanisms so as to achieve a meaningful protection of Net neutrality, as suggested by La Quadrature du Net's proposal of amendments.

“Neelie Kroes and Del Castillo Vera's current proposals could jeopardize for decades the essential principle of Net neutrality. But if we can convince MEPs to table and adopt positive amendments fixing the main loopholes of the draft regulation, this could lead to a substantial progress of our freedom online as well as innovation in digital economy environment. For all those reasons, citizens must act now and urge MEPs to ensure a real and unconditional Net neutrality!” concluded Miriam Artino, in charge of legal and political analysis for La Quadrature du Net.

Act now!

As a citizen platform, La Quadrature du Net provides the PiPhone, a web tool allowing to call Members of the ITRE Committee free of charge:

Act now!

  • 1. As an example, the European Data Protection Supervisor stated in a press release published on November 15th that the Neelie Kroes' proposal devoids “of substance" the Net neutrality principle "because of the almost unlimited right of providers to manage Internet traffic”. Citizen organisations also widely criticized the proposal.
  • 2. Protecting the electronic communication of the European citizens means to guarantee a very solid Net neutrality principle. To that purpose it is highly necessary to clearly define what is a specialised services; provide enforcement mechanisms and strictly frame what is a reasonable traffic management practices.
  • 3. At the annual conference of the European Competitive Telecommunication Association, which took place in Brussels on December 3rd, Catherine Trautmann said she wants to improve the definition of specialised services and obligate the Internet access providers to develop their activities within their networks. Marietje Schaake also strongly criticized Kroes' proposal.
    Sources: https://www.laquadrature.net/fr/contexte-le-debat-sur-la-neutralite-du-n... [fr] - http://www.vieuws.eu/ict/net-neutrality-european-commission-proposal-may-stifle-innovation-argues-marietje-schaake-mep/

December 12 2013

Crucial Moment Ahead for Net Neutrality at the EU Parliament

On September 11th, the European Commission adopted an important legislative package geared to achieve the European Single Market of telecommunication and build thereby a connected continent.

Neelie Kroes and a kitten

Since this summer La Quadrature du Net and others have tried to raise attention to the threats contained in the proposal of the European Commission, especially concerning the protection of the Net neutrality principle, which the legislative proposal claims to defend in a deceiving manner1.

This dossier is now on the table of the European Parliament, which is forced to work and make decisions under the pressure of a very tight calendar, conditioned by the upcoming elections and the political need – for each MEP involved in the process – to conclude their mandate with, at least, an intermediary legislative act. Unluckily, this scenario is not favourable to an in-depth, analytical and widespread debate on the different and relevant aspects of the proposal, which is quite technical in nature.

Such a haste carries a high risk of disregard for the position of civil society organizations2, whose contribution would be absolutely crucial to reach a decision based not purely on economic interests, but also on the defense of the freedom and rights of European citizens.

Del Castillo Vera
Del Castillo Vera

Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP - Spain), Chair of the European Internet Foundation3 is the rapporteur appointed within the European Parliament on that file. Her draft report was considered during an extraordinary meeting of the “Industry” (ITRE) Committee, held in Strasbourg on December 9th. Unluckily, the choice of the French seat, instead of the Belgian one, to hold this important step of the procedure4, resulted de facto in a not-fully-transparent debate: no video has been distributed on the European Parliament website, which is apparently due to the absence of dedicated equipments in Strasbourg seat5.

In addition to the non-trivial dysfunctions observed in the process, we've already pointed out how the del Castillo's draft report disregards all the concerns voiced by civil society since last summer. The rapporteur's refusal to amend sensitive provisions – such as the definition of “specialised services” – would result de facto in inflicting a mortal blow to the Net neutrality principle.

Until next Tuesday, on December 17th, MEPs have the opportunity to table amendments on the proposal of the European Commission and guarantee that EU citizens will be able to exert their freedom of expression and information on the Net. As a citizen platform, La Quadrature du Net provides the PiPhone, a web tool allowing to call Members of the ITRE Committee free of charge, to urge them to include in the final report an uncompromising vision of Net neutrality.

Catherine Trautmann
Catherine Trautmann

We feel confident that, with the active support of the shadow rapporteurs, the proposal of the European Commission could be fixed in its critical points. In particular, we welcome Mrs Trautmann's (S&D - France) recent declarations at the annual conference of the European Competitive Telecommunication Association, which took place in Brussels on December 3rd. She said she wants to improve the definition of specialised services and obligate the Internet access providers to develop their activities within their networks.

There is good opportunity for this to become the position of the European Parliament. If not, the Net neutrality principle will be undermined and the morphology of our communications and the nature of the information we will be able to access and impart would radically change.

Support La Quadrature du Net!

Protecting and defending the Net neutrality principle means thereby allowing the Internet to actively contribute to the functioning of modern democracies and protect citizens against any sorts of discrimination and abuse. If the foundations of that principle are – even barely – compromised, private stakeholders will hamper the normal and natural functioning of the Internet commons – whose rules would be decided by commercial and business logics.

By Miriam Artino, in charge of legal and political analysis for La Quadrature du Net

  • 1. The proposal for a Regulation on the Telecom Package pretends to defend the Net neutrality principle by stating in its article 23.5 that “providers of Internet access services shall not restrict the freedoms [of communication] by blocking, slowing down, degrading or discriminating against specific content, applications or services”, but breaches this principle right before introducing it, allowing in its article 23.2 the provision of “specialised service […] with an enhanced quality of service" – that is to say services offering prioritization.
  • 2. In the public hearing on the Commission’s proposal organised within the “Industry” (ITRE) committee on November 28th, no representative of the civil society was among contributors.
  • 3. The European Internet Foundation brings together MEPs of various parties and experts representing often industry and technology interests.
  • 4. In the European decision-making process, the consideration of a report is a key moment, allowing citizens to understand what is the nature of the different positions an MEP will take on the file.
  • 5. This is the explanation the services of the European Parliament gave us when we called for more information on the reason why we were not able to access the debate online.

December 05 2013

Net Neutrality: EU Parliament Must Amend Kroes' Dangerous Proposal

Paris, 5 December 2013 – On Monday 9th December, the rapporteur Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP - Spain) will present to the “Industry” (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament her draft report on Neelie Kroes' proposal for a Regulation on the Telecom Package. Citizens must urge MEPs to amend this report in order to accurately define what qualifies as 'specialised services' with 'enhanced' quality of service, and ensure that the Regulation will guarantee a genuine and unconditional Net neutrality principle.

Neelie Kroes and a kitten

The proposal for a Regulation on the Telecom Package, issued by Neelie Kroes on September 11th despite vivid criticisms from both outside1 and inside the Commission2, pretends to defend the Net neutrality principle by stating in its article 23.5 that “providers of Internet access services shall not restrict the freedoms [of communication] by blocking, slowing down, degrading or discriminating against specific content, applications or services3.

Ironically, the proposal actually breaches this principle right before introducing it, allowing in its article 23.2 the provision of “specialised service [...] with an enhanced quality of service" – that is to say services offering prioritization. Although it might be acceptable to prioritize services on private networks as long as they do not unfairly compete with existing Internet services4, the proposal goes further and reuses this concept to extend it to the Internet as a whole. The Commission thereby aims to give control over such form of discrimination to Internet access providers and big content providers, allowing them to “enter into agreements with each other to transmit the related data volumes [...] with a defined quality of service or dedicated capacity5. Here, prioritization on the Internet would affect billions of communications, people and companies, and would only relies on commercial agreements between dominant actors of the digital economy. In the meantime, smaller new entrants and innovative players would not be able to enter into the same deals and would de facto be deprioritized. Freedom of communication on the Internet's end-to-end architecture would also be severely undermined.



Del Castillo Vera
Del Castillo Vera

The draft report which will be presented on Monday, December 9th by Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP - Spain) – rapporteur in ITRE, the Committee responsible – will propose the very same provisions, specifying even more clearly that “ the general quality of Internet access” may de facto lawfully be impaired on the basis of “the technology deployed, in order to ensure the delivery of the enhanced quality service6.

Citizens must urge MEPs to amend the draft regulation, in particular to better specify the nature and the characteristics of specialised services:

  • clarifying that a specialised service shall run within closed communications networks, e.g. separately from the Internet access service (according to the definition provided by telecom regulatory authorities);
  • and guaranteeing that any service functionally identical to services available over the public Internet cannot qualify for enhanced quality of service (so as to ensure the principle of Net neutrality is not bypassed through the development of specialized services).

MEPs must also better define Net neutrality (article 23.1) to cover the freedom to connect any hardware to the network (in particular servers so as to promote self-hosting which can play a key role in empowering citizens in relation to their Internet communications), and also set out effective enforcement procedures and sanctions against those who violate the crucial principle of Net neutrality.

“Neelie Kroes and the text's rapporteur at the EU Parliament are trying to legitimate prioritizations in favor of dominant Internet companies through an outrageous reversal of the concept of 'specialised services'. Discrimination of Internet services would severely undermine the decentralized architecture that has made the Internet work so well for the past decades. We cannot let telecom operators decide what information we can access and how we can access it without renouncing to the Internet's empowerment and potential for creativity and innovation. Citizens must contact their MEPs and urge them to properly define 'specialised services' so as to ensure that they take place on closed networks and do not unfairly compete with existing Internet services” concluded Félix Tréguer, cofounder of the association La Quadrature du Net.

Act now!

As a citizen platform, La Quadrature du Net provides the PiPhone, a web tool allowing to call Members of the ITRE Committee free of charge:

Act now!

  • 1. As an example, the European Data Protection Supervisor stated in a press release published on November 15th that the Neelie Kroes' proposal devoids “of substance" the Net neutrality principle "because of the almost unlimited right of providers to manage Internet traffic”. Citizen organisations also widely criticized the proposal.
  • 2. A leaked criticism of a draft by EU Commissioner Viviane Redding's services says for example “such limited possibilities of accessing Internet content and services of their choice would run counter to the stated objectives of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”: http://www.edri.org/NN-negativeopinions
  • 3. Proposal for a Regulation on the single market for electronic communications, Article 23.5: “Within the limits of any contractually agreed data volumes or speeds for Internet access services, providers of Internet access services shall not restrict the freedoms provided for in paragraph 1 by blocking, slowing down, degrading or discriminating against specific content, applications or services, or specific classes thereof, except in cases where it is necessary to apply reasonable traffic management measures. Reasonable traffic management measures shall be transparent, non-discriminatory, proportionate and necessary to:
    a) implement a legislative provision or a court order, or prevent or impede serious crimes;
    b) preserve the integrity and security of the network, services provided via this network, and the end-users' terminals;
    c) prevent the transmission of unsolicited communications to end-users who have given their prior consent to such restrictive measures;
    d) minimise the effects of temporary or exceptional network congestion provided that equivalent types of traffic are treated equally.
  • 4. As for the priorization of existing Internet services, La Quadrature du Net takes the view that after the adoption of the Regulation, a reflection should be launched to consider the possibility of allowing priorization of Internet communications, as long as three main conditions are met:

  • that such Quality of Service be application-agnostic (applied indiscriminately to different online services or applications);
  • that such Quality of Service be under the full control of the user so as to preserve the key architectural features of the Internet;
  • that the best-effort Internet be protected from degradation caused by the development of guaranteed QoS, for instance by ensuring a “sufficient quality of service” for the best-effort traffic delivery model (a notion already in use in some EU countries).

  • 5. Proposal for a Regulation on the single market for electronic communications, Article 25.2:
    2. End-users shall also be free to agree with either providers of electronic communications to the public or with providers of content, applications and services on the provision of specialised services with an enhanced quality of service.
    In order to enable the provision of specialised services to end-users, providers of content, applications and services and providers of electronic communications to the public shall be free to enter into agreements with each other to transmit the related data volumes or traffic as specialised services with a defined quality of service or dedicated capacity. The provision of specialised services shall not impair in a recurring or continuous manner the general quality of Internet access services.
  • 6. Pilar del Castillo draft report on the proposal, amendment 103: “End-users shall also be free to agree with either providers of electronic communications to the public or with providers of content, applications and services on the provision of specialised services with an enhanced quality of service. Where such agreements are concluded with the provider of Internet access, that provider shall ensure that the enhanced quality service does not impair the general quality of Internet access, except as may be necessary taking into account the state of the art and technology deployed, in order to ensure the delivery of the enhanced quality service.” (added text is indicated in bold)
  • September 18 2013

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