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Europe prepares to enforce its take on net neutrality

Loek Essers and Peter Sayer | July 10, 2015
European Union citizens got their first look at draft net neutrality laws on Wednesday, more than a week after the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached an agreement. Digital rights activists are guardedly optimistic about the guarantees it offers for access to an open Internet.

The term's absence from the draft could open the way for countries to ban zero-rating of their own accord, said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament.

The rights groups also regretted a lack of clarity in parts of the text. As an EU regulation, it will enter into force almost immediately after its final approval, replacing national law in the areas it covers. It will be up to national regulators to enforce the law. However, "a big part of the text" lacks clarity and would need to be interpreted by the authorities, said Massé, who is concerned that national regulators could interpret the text differently from one another.

Now the Council has formally approved the draft, Parliament must give its formal approval -- and may try to change the text again. Schaake said she would try to add a ban on zero-rating, though she said that at this stage that would be hard to do.

Next week the document will be discussed in the Industry Research and Energy Committee, and Parliament is expected to give a final vote on the text in the autumn.


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