Thursday, June 6, 2554

Dutch lawmakers adopt net neutrality Bill

The measure, which was adopted by a large majority in the lower House of Dutch Parliament, will prevent the Tweede Kamer, KPN, the Dutch telecommunications market leader and the Dutch unit Vodafone and T-Mobile, block or charging for Internet services. Its sponsors said that the measure would pass a proforma to review Dutch Senate smoothly.

Analysts said that the restrictions imposed in the Netherlands may shape Europe is wider, the evolving debate on net neutrality, pushing more countries of the continent to limit operators acting as self-appointed toll collectors of mobile Internet.

"I could see even some countries, following the example of the Netherlands," said Jacques de Greling, an analyst at Natixis, a French Bank. "I think there will be pressure from consumers to make clear what they are buying, whether Internet or Internet-full light."

Supporters greeted the move as a victory for consumers, while industry officials predicted that the mobile broadband charges could increase in the Netherlands to compensate for the new restrictions.

"We support network neutrality," said Sandra de Jong, spokesman for Consumentenbond, the largest Dutch consumer organization, based in the Hague. "We do not believe that operators should be able to limit Internet. That would be a bad precedent. "

Luigi Gambardella, President of the Executive Committee of the Association of European Telecommunications Network operators, an industrial group headquartered in Brussels, warned that the Netherlands legislation could dissuade operators from making the necessary investments in high-speed networks for fear of expensive infrastructure but unprofitable.

"Any further regulation should avoid discouraging investment and innovative business models, which leads to more efficient use of networks and the creation of new business opportunities," said Mr. Gambardella. He said that operators needed the ability to charge different rates for different levels of service, to cover the costs of data-demanding applications.

Operators still could offer a range of mobile data rates with different download speed and service levels, but would not be able to bind the specific rates for specific Internet services.

Under Dutch law, the operators could be fined up to 10 percent of their annual sales to violations by the national telecommunications regulator OPTA.

Patrick Nickolson, a spokesman for KPN, said that the measure could lead to increased broadband prices in the Netherlands, because operators are limited in their ability to structure differentiated data packets based on consumption.

"We regret that the Dutch Parliament will not take more time to consider this," said Mr. Nickolson. "This will limit our ability to develop a new portfolio of rates and there is at least the risk of higher prices, because our options to differentiate now will be more limited."

Stephen Collins, the head of Government and regulatory affairs in London for Skype, applauded the move by legislators.

"Skype welcomes the fair and reasonable that the Dutch Parliament has adopted today," said Mr. Collins. "Set an example for other countries in Europe and elsewhere to follow."

Bruno Braakhuis, a Dutch legislator from Haarlem, which was the original sponsor of the legislation, called the adoption of a victory for consumers.

"For us, this is indeed a fundamental right," said Mr. Braakhuis, a member of the party GroenLinks. "We believe net neutrality to be as important as freedom of the press, freedom of speech".

The Dutch restrictions on operators are the first 27 European Union countries. The European Commission and the European Parliament have approved the guidelines of network neutrality, but still have not taken any legal action against operators that block or impose additional fees on consumers using services like Skype, voice and Internet video service is being acquired by Microsoft and WhatsApp, a mobile software company headquartered in Santa Clara, California.

Sanctions may be coming, however.

View the original article here

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