Despite concerted industry opposition The Netherlands' senate has unanimously passed the country's net neutrality law and, unless the Queen strongly objects, she will sign it off to make Holland the second country (after Chile) to formally enact such legislation. By Ian Scales.
This no-nonsense victory is slightly surprising given recent history - especially in the US where concerted telco lobbying and highly partisan media treatment has made net neutrality a debate that no sane person would want to wade into.
So, given the near year-long hiatus in Holland between this week's senate vote and the original legislation introduced following the furore over KPN Mobile's decision to surcharge OTT service providers last June (see - Going Dutch: now another term for Net Neutrality), it just seemed a near-certainty that the usual behind-the-scenes maneuvering would result in some sort of watering down of the legislation - or at least some weighty opposition.
The new law appears to do what it said on the original tin: internet access providers will be forbidden to filter, block or slow traffic except to protect the network or prevent congestion. When they do, they must treat traffic of the same type equally (they can't prioritise their own voice traffic, for instance, over voice traffic generated by third party providers). They also can't cut special deals so that prices for connections to some sites are reduced or zero-rated.
In what seems to be clear closing of the door to any non-judicial graduated response requirement - such as France's Hadopi or the US 6-strikes - the legislation prevents ISPs from disconnecting customers for anything other than fraud, non-payment or in response to a court order.
Interestingly, user privacy issues have also been placed under the neutrality umbrella with a wiretapping clause that bans providers from using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to suck up personal information of any kind.
There is one weirdness though. In the original legislative confusion when the Dutch politicians were still getting to grips with the strange new concept (net neutrality) a right wing party managed to smuggle a religious exception amendment (mistakenly voted through by the Dutch Labor Party) which would have allowed filtering at a customer's request. This wedge for Internet censorship is expected to be itself amended by an attachment to another bill (rather than have this bill referred back).
All of which leaves Neely Kroes, the EC digital agenda commissioner, looking somewhat outflanked. She had originally pleaded with her home parliament not to jump the gun but to wait for European policy guidance over net neutrality. Her stated concern was that overly-simplistic legislation would constrain innovative business models by making it impossible for providers to offer a set of designated destinations in return for a price-break, the difference being made up revenue-sharing (with the designated destinations - a walled garden in other words).
However, there has been a noticeable slackening of enthusiasm for this sort of model over the past few years because, if nothing else, the pricing for low-end neutral access in Europe is now so low.
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