Net neutrality at risk as council meets parliament tonight

Negotiators will meet tonight to thrash out a deal on net neutrality for Europe.

Negotiators will meet tonight to thrash out a deal on net neutrality for Europe.

The 27-strong European Parliament delegation will meet telecommunications ministers for conciliation talks over Amendment 138, which guarantees that no-one can interfere with a user's access to and enjoyment of internet access without a court order.

This single clause is holding up the passage of the Telecoms Package, which will create a single market in telecommunications in Europe.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Christian Engström from the Pirate Party, Sweden, and Philippe Lamberts form Ecolo, Belgium, both Greens/EFA members of the European Parliament delegation, said parliament had yet to receive an explanation from the Council of Minister as to why it rejected Amendment 138 almost five months after the European Parliament passed it.

"The absence of any explanation clearly hampers attempts to reach a compromise," they said.

They said the council seemed to want to limit the negotiations to a review of whether or not it is possible to interfere with citizens' internet access without a court order.

"The European Parliament vote made clear that internet access should not be blocked without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities," they said. "Now, the only aim of the council seems to be to reverse the parliament's vote on this issue."

Such a blinkered approach would harm efforts to reach a workable compromise, they said.

"The Greens/EFA group is calling for broader and more open-minded negotiations, which aim for legislation that protects citizens' rights and guarantees that the internet stays free and open," they said.

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission recently endorsed the net neutrality principle as one of six tenets of an open internet.

Observers say telecommunications ministers want Amendment 138 dropped to make it easier to police the internet, and to allow network operators to restrict certain types of traffic, such as Skype calls and other peer to peer file-sharing systems.

According to market analyst Telegeography, Skype, which uses the internet to route calls, is now effectively the world's biggest carrier of international voice calls. International voice traffic is one of the most lucrative sources of income for network operators.

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