EU weakens net neutrality to pass telecoms reform package

A net neutrality revision has allowed European legislators to implement long-awaited reforms that will introduce a single competitive market in telecoms...

A net neutrality revision has allowed European legislators to implement long-awaited reforms that will introduce a single competitive market in telecoms throughout the continent.

New, watered-down text adopted in a conciliation process speaks of the right to a "prior fair and impartial procedure" rather than a court action, as well as the presumption of innocence in cases of alleged illegal file-sharing.

Legislators had stalled over Amendment 138, which guaranteed that subscribers would have unhindered access to and use of their internet connections unless a court believed they were abusing the facility.

Sources close to the law-making process say the new text appears to allow the UK and French governments to persist with their "three strikes and you are out" policies to go after illegal file-sharers.

La Quadrature du Net, a net neutrality lobby organisation, said the new text aimed at protecting internet access includes positive elements. "It also contains ambiguous language and potential loopholes. This rather unambitious provision will now be up for interpretation," it said in a statement.

EU communications commissioner Viviane Reding welcomed the agreement. "This internet freedom provision is unprecedented across the globe and a strong signal that the EU takes fundamental rights very seriously, in particular when it comes to the Information Society," she said.

Reding said the compromise paved the way for a telecoms reform, enhancing consumer rights and consumer choice in Europe's telecoms markets, and adding new guarantees to ensure the openness and neutrality of the internet.

"It will boost competition and investment in telecoms markets, and open up airwaves for new mobile services, allowing internet broadband for all Europeans," she said.

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