Telecom reform proposal approved by European lawmakers might limit how service providers can charge customers.
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The European Parliament on Thursday voted to end mobile device roaming charges by Christmas 2015, part of a package of telecom reforms that might limit the ability of service providers to charge different rates for network traffic.
The members of Parliament voted for the Telecoms Single Market proposal and for a series of amendments offered by the Green, Socialist, and Liberal parties, while rejecting measures advocated by the Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and favored by network businesses.
Through these amendments, the reforms embrace the concept of "Net neutrality," under which network providers must treat data traffic in a non-discriminatory manner.
Access Now, a European advocacy group, praised the outcome of the vote. "The text adopted today introduces comprehensive measures preserving the open Internet by providing a clear and binding definition of network neutrality," said Estelle Massé, junior policy analyst, in a blog post. "It also provides safeguards against different forms of network discrimination by prohibiting the blocking or throttling of content and services, while also preventing anti-competitive commercial agreements."
The rules allow reasonable, lawful traffic management methods that are proportionate, temporary, and targeted. They also eliminate loopholes in the ITRE proposal that would have allowed ISPs and telcos to exempt certain services from the regulations.
The proposal is due to be reviewed later this year by the Council of the European Union before it is finalized and adopted as law.
Network service providers argue that different network services, such as video, have different data delivery requirements, necessitating different pricing. Net neutrality advocates counter that price variation is often imposed to advance the competitive interests of network providers rather than to cover costs.
In the US, a federal court struck down rules mandating Net neutrality earlier this year, leaving the FCC to reformulate its regulatory approach. That process is ongoing.
In March, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings published a blog post decrying the toll his company has opted to pay to Comcast to preserve service quality and calling for stronger Net neutrality protections.
"Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service," wrote Hastings. "The big ISPs can make these demands – driving up costs and prices for everyone else – because of their market position. For any given U.S. household, there is often only one or two choices for getting high-speed Internet* access and that's unlikely to change."
David Cohen, Comcast's executive vice president, characterized Hastings's argument as "hogwash" in a C-SPAN interview and said Netflix initiated the deal.
The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Apple has been negotiating with Comcast for a similar deal that would ensure smooth delivery of Apple TV content.
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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio
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