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Net neutrality goes Dutch

While the Netherlands is primarily known for windmills, tulips and legalized marijuana, it could soon be known for its net neutrality regulations as well.

The Dutch Parliament yesterday passed a law that would bar mobile data carriers from blocking or charging extra money to users trying to make voice calls over Skype or other IP-based voice applications. The law also requires online advertisers and websites to get "explicit consumer consent" before installing cookies onto users' computers and devices.

RELATED: Verizon, FCC net neutrality fight only beginning

The Dutch government decided to enact net neutrality regulations after Dutch carrier KPN said it would begin charging users extra money if they wanted to use Skype or WhatsApp, which acts as a free SMS service. Presuming the net neutrality law passes the Dutch Senate, it will make the Netherlands the first country in the European Union to adopt net neutrality laws and only the second country in the entire world, as Chile approved a net neutrality law last year that just went into effect last month.

As reported by The New York Times it seems that the two sides of the net neutrality dispute in the Netherlands have been making similar arguments as those made by the two sides of the net neutrality fight in the United States. Proponents such as Skype argue that net neutrality is necessary to preserve the open nature of the Web and to prevent carriers from hindering innovation by blocking or degrading competitors' applications or websites. Opponents such as KPN have said that net neutrality rules will take away carriers' incentives to invest money to improve their networks by taking away vital revenue streams such as voice calling and text messaging.

Net neutrality refers to the principle that ISPs should not be allowed to block or degrade Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own. The push for net neutrality in the United States began in 2005, when incumbent telecom carriers successfully lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to repeal common carrier rules that required the incumbents to allow ISPs such as EarthLink to buy space on their broadband networks at discount rates. The battle over net neutrality has been waged for years with consumer groups and some Internet companies in favor and telecom carriers almost universally opposed.

The FCC last year passed rules on a party-line vote that imposed net neutrality on wireline broadband but that left wireless broadband mostly untouched. So while the FCC's order mandated that wireline broadband providers are not allowed to "block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management," wireless providers are only barred from blocking content or applications that directly compete with their own voice or video telephony services.

Longtime net neutrality foe Verizon filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the FCC's authority to enforce any kind of net neutrality rules. Verizon is challenging the FCC's authority in the same Washington, D.C., appeals court that ruled last year that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate ISP network management under its current legal framework.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.


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