The concept of ‘net neutrality’, or of ‘open internet’, refers to the notion that internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally. Advocates of this concept envisage an internet where people can use their internet connection from anywhere and for anything with no additional charges and/or restrictions.
In the midst of wide-ranging telecoms reforms, the European Parliament today took a firm stand in favour of net neutrality when an overwhelming majority of its members voted in favour of ending roaming fees by 2016. If the EU governments approve the proposed law, making a call or downloading internet data in another EU country will cost the same as it does at home as from the 15th December 2015. Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for digital affairs and an ardent advocate for net neutrality, said in support of the proposed reform that “consumers are fed up with being ripped off”.
The European Parliament also voted to restrict the ability of internet service providers to charge corporations for faster network access, as well as to block or degrade services – such as WhatsApp and Skype storage – which compete with their own. This situation stands in sharp contrast to that obtaining in the US, where a net neutrality law was struck down in January of this year. Since then, Netflix has entered into a contract with internet service provider Comcast for preferential data delivery.