On Tuesday the 8th of May 2012, the senate passed the amendment of the Dutch Telecom law to add Net Neutrality and therefore the addition came into effect immediately on that day henceforth. As the second country in the world (Chile was first in June 2010) Net Neutrality is now guaranteed under Dutch Law. Is it absolute or are there a few exceptions? In this post I talk about the major strong points of the law and what exceptions there are. Has the world become a better place because of it or is it a symbolic law? Let’s find out!
How did we come to this law? Several Dutch political parties have been talking about net neutrality for a longer period of time, but there was no real priority given to the issue, because of three factors; Lobbyists, Euro crisis and trying to go for a European law. Priority came when the dutch telecom company KPN issued a statement that declining profits and revenue was caused by customers switching from paid services (calling and texting) to free digital services (Skype, whatsapp). The average revenue per user (ARPU) was declining fast, fueled by the behavior change of the customers. Especially Whatsapp was given the blame for the collapse of SMS service use. To keep the ARPU up, KPN was planning to make customers pay extra for the use of certain third-party apps over their 3g network. The other telecom giants (Vodafone, T-mobile) issued statements that they were also thinking to implement this business model.
This move by KPN fueled several political parties to ask the minister Maxime Verhagen to add net neutrality to the telecom law. Seeing that this new business model was overstepping some moral boundaries by KPN, the minister could not wait for the European commission and issued the amendment asap.
The amendment of the telecom law consist of 2 laws
1. Net neutrality: the non restricted access and full usage of the available bandwidth to data and information. This means providers can’t block data/information/apps or limit bandwidth for certain services.
2. Cookie law: websites are no longer able to issue cookies without the explicit permission of the user. This will prevent the unsolicited storage of personal data and browse history by cookies, to be used for retargeting for example.
There are four exceptions provided when providers may deviate from the Net Neutrality law.
A. Providers are authorized to limit the bandwidth of or restrict access to a particular service, to prevent congestion. This means that if a service is accessed by too many users, using up too much bandwidth so the access to other services/data/information is being prohibited, the provider can temporarily limit access to the service to fix congestion problems. This exception is issued to make sure that all data/information/services will be available to users and not blocked out by sudden peaks in service requests for a particular service/website.
B. To protect the integrity and safety of services and the internet, providers may filter and/or block certain traffic. This exception is issued to help providers block cyber and virus attacks. Providers will be able to block DDOS attacks for example.
C. Providers may block certain content to a particular end user, but only when the particular end user in question has given explicit permission. This exception has been issued to give the end user the possibility to block certain unwanted content. This can be parents having all explicit material blocked on their account, so their children will have access to a “child save” internet.
D. Court orders issued before this law came into effect are not affected by the net neutrality law. This means that all court orders that pre-date the 8th of may are still in effect. Yes, this also means that ThePirateBay still has to be blocked by Dutch ISP’s. This exception has been issued to make sure that not all the court decisions of the last 20 years are contested. A pretty standard exception.
To make sure that all web sites comply with the new law, all sites/companies are required by law (effective 2013) to actively provide evidence that they are complying, instead of the government (justice department) providing evidence that they don’t.
So, what’s the end result? Really positive actually. Net neutrality is almost absolute except in 4 instances. And the “C” option is already under review and might be taken out with a future amendment. It’s a great law, which will guarantee our access to all and every bit of data/information and protect us from unsolicited data storage of personal info in cookies.