EU Releases Net Neutrality Guidelines

Suggests Zero rating plans must be viewed on case-by-case basis
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European regulators have issued guidelines on how member countries should implement network neutrality regulations.

The guidelines, from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), are recommendations to individual national regulators in EU member countries on implementing and applying the new EU net neutrality law, which the European Parliament adopted last fall and have already started applying.

Dovetailing with the FCC's new Open Internet order, The law essentially "enshrines" net neutrality principles of no blocking or throttling of online content, applications and services, the guidelines are meant to help apply those across its divergent membership.

New America's Open Technology Institute liked what it saw.

“Today is a victory for net neutrality in Europe," said Joshua Stager, policy counsel for OTI. "BEREC was under intense pressure from ISPs to enact weak, loophole-ridden rules, but today’s guidance shows that BEREC resisted that pressure. We are especially pleased that the guidelines include strong protections for interconnection, the traffic-exchange points that are vulnerable to ISP manipulation. The guidelines also establish a good starting point to evaluate zero rating schemes."

The guidelines spend several graphs hashing out zero rating issues.

"There are different types of zero-rating practices which could have different effects on end-users and the open internet, and hence on the end-user rights protected under the Regulation," the guidelines say, adding that"a zero-rating offer where all applications are blocked (or slowed down) once the data cap is reached except for the zero-rated application(s)" would be problematic, as would a plan that favors an ISPs own services over others.

The FCC is currently looking at zero rating plans under its new net neutrality rules general conduct standard to see how they impact Internet openness.

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