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18 Jul, 2013 12:47

End to EU internet equality? Draft regulation allows telecoms sell higher speeds

End to EU internet equality? Draft regulation allows telecoms sell higher speeds

The EU is going to abandon its net neutrality policy which meant all videos, articles or web pages got the same amount of bandwidth. According to the draft regulation, richer internet providers will be able to buy themselves higher speeds.

 The idea of granting equal portions of online traffic for all content providers appears to be a utopia, as the European Union, which formerly pledged its commitment to the principle, might be getting ready to make a step in a different direction.  

"Content providers and telecommunications providers are free to negotiate agreements on volume tariffs and different qualities of data transmission for internet users," the German business daily Handelsblatt, which managed to obtain a copy of a draft regulation by the European Union's Executive Commission, cites the document as saying.

If the regulation is passed, Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecoms will be able to charge their clients for better data transmission.

Telecoms have long complained they have trouble keeping up with the growing volume of data traffic. The web users’ current uploading spree has prompted the US IT company Cisco to come up with a forecast that online video traffic – the most voluminous thing on the web - will double by 2017.  ISP’s have to constantly increase their capacity to deal with the situation, so they want the soaring expenses to be covered by both the content providers and by individual Internet users.  

The EU draft regulation is intended to ease the burden of inundated ISPs. As for content providers – giants like Google or Facebook will most probably be unaffected, as they are able to buy themselves a bigger slice of the bandwidth pie to ensure their data is prioritized in networks. Smaller sites however, will have to make do with virtual leftovers.   

In April this year, German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom announced a plan to reduce users' internet speed once a certain monthly data limit had been reached. Those who want more surfing capacity would have to pay. The company said it would resort to the practice no earlier than 2016, a move that has incited outrage among the he German public.

The EU Commission draft regulation, however, appears to be on the side of Deutsche Telekom.

The concept of net neutrality is not completely gone from the document, but now it is being defined not as equal bandwidth for all, but as freedom of access to whatever content. The new document says that all users will be free "to gain information and content, and to distribute, to run applications and services of their choice”.

The new definition has hardly been met with universal approval.

"What we've seen in terms of a draft law is not enough to ensure network neutrality," Handelsblatt cites Philipp Rösler, German Economics Minister, who is one of major opponents to the new regulation.

Currently only the Netherlands, Slovenia and Chile hold the principle of net neutrality concerning internet speeds codified in law.