back to article Europe fails to ban web 'fast lanes' – what now for Euro net neutrality?

Efforts to pass a range of amendments that would have strengthened net neutrality legislation failed on Tuesday in the European Parliament, leading to the question: what now for Europe? First up: the reality. All the proposed amendments failed with a significant majority against them. It was roughly 440 against 240 for each …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Would it have been too much to ask

    To explain what permutation of Net Neutrality these rules were all about? 20 years in tech and I'm still not convinced I understand what it is - it seems to be all things to all men.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would it have been too much to ask

      It would have been good if El Reg had summarised the big issues. This techdirt article does quite a good job (although be aware it is heavily biased in favour of strong net neutrality).

      1. kierenmccarthy

        Re: Would it have been too much to ask

        Summarized it yesterday and stuck in a link to the article in this one:


        1. Gannon (J.) Dick

          Re: Would it have been too much to ask

          The original post said "after 20 years in IT ..."

          The controversy is a bit older than that, as 5 Eyes would say if 5 Eyes ever said anything.

          In the US we have Social Security Cards. These are 9 digit numbers with which we access retirement benefits. They are distributed on demand, and it was known before the scheme was implemented that address space would run out and the numbers would have to be recycled.

          Responding to the abhorrence of internal passports used in Europe for Identity Checks after WWII, Social Security Cards were marked "Not For Identification" in 1946 and have been ever since. The US Government said "no thanks" to this innovation. Frankly, the foreseeable consequences of the surveillance state scared them. Naturally the Private Sector, Banks and the like used Social Security Cards as identity instruments in their private systems because, "everyone" knows no whiff of competence, let alone earnest good intentions ever broached the Civil Service insulation. We are rich and you are not, we must be brilliant, etc., etc.. Europe has these people too


          The punchline ?

          You "win" some votes, you "lose" some votes, but make no mistake, the stakes are very very high. The transparent lack of honour among thieves only is in evidence late in the game and this is a game we have played before.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Would it have been too much to ask

      If I remember correctly, Andrew Orlowski had a piece, maybe two, some time ago, that I thought did a fairly good job with the basic issues. I think it was a month or so before the US FCC caved to White House pressure and reversed what appeared to be its direction. The issues in Europe probably are somewhat different, but there is likely to be far greater similarity.

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: Would it have been too much to ask

        If I remember correctly, Andrew Orlowski had a piece, maybe two, some time ago, that I thought did a fairly good job with the basic issues

        I think if Andrew had written a fair and balanced piece about anything we would all of remembered it....

    3. Markablejones

      Re: Would it have been too much to ask

      Net neutrality means that ISPs can reasonably manage network traffic, but they can't use their power over content to artificially pick winners and losers on the web. Big content providers and ISPs would benefit from a non-neutral structure because startups would never be able to raise the funds to compete. For Facebook and the ISP, this would be a win-win. On a non-neutral internet, Facebook would pay the ISP, the ISP would delivery facebook traffic faster than Facebook's competitors, giving facebook a competitive advantage and allowing Facebook to price potential competitors out of the market (note: a 250 millisecond variance in load time creates a competitive advantage, according to Microsoft). But Netflix is different, because it's content is in direct competition to the ISP, so the ISP might just charge Netflix an absurd fee in order to make it's service more appealing.

      It's not just Facebook--Amazon can be prioritized over smaller businesses. Or big banks over local ones. For every small business on the internet, this ruling was a disaster, and it will allow their bigger competitors to push them out of the online marketplace. And a competition decreases, prices will go up.

      In all of these scenarios, consumers lose--the new profit is created from artificially imposed bandwidth shortages, profit from thin air; and the results have major implications for freedom of speech and innovation on the internet.

      Net neutrality is essential ... if people understood the consequences of today's vote against net neutrality, they would be rioting in the streets.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Would it have been too much to ask


        It sounds like the riot has started in your head.

        The argument is over preferential treatment for video, not banking apps or Facebook. Traditional peering does not work well for high volume low latency services, like video. So they build their own networks or buy direct connections to the major ISPs. The barrier to building your own YouTube is already pretty high.

        Like many activists you just don't understand how the internet works.

        1. auburnman

          Re: Would it have been too much to ask

          There are certainly compelling arguments for prioritising certain types of services like video. The argument is over the worry ISP's will use these exceptions as a smokescreen to sneak in faster connections for whoever gives them cashola and make it nigh impossible for smaller companies to compete on a level playing field.

      2. Badvok

        Re: Would it have been too much to ask

        @Markablejones the biggest point you and many others miss out is that in Europe we typically have competition between ISPs unlike in large parts of the US. If an ISP did start favouring one service over another then users are likely to notice and if they don't like it switch ISP.

        Yes I know some small parts of Europe don't have many options but if any of the ISPs started doing anything like this it would still be too big a hit in areas where there is choice for them to risk it.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Paid fast lane: I fear this scenario

    " Note the word "could."

    Or in layman's terms, will happen and start saving your pennies now.... you may have to pay them later.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Paid fast lane: I fear this scenario

      there wont be any Paid fast lane this is not the US

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Paid fast lane: I fear this scenario

        "there wont be any Paid fast lane this is not the US"

        Not yet it isn't.

        1. Richard Jones 1

          Re: Paid fast lane: I fear this scenario

          I think the implication might have been that nothing would be fast for most people in Europe. Quite possibly a safe bet for anyone outside of the favoured few. For too many snail and tortoise racing would be too fast for their internet.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Free roaming isn't all that either

    Apparently it leaves the teleco to set a fair usage cap after which they can chare. So that's 1 minute/message/MB then...

    So this is a success for the telecos u der the auspicious stewardship of H-dot. Let's see which board of directors he ends up on... I'm placing my bets on Deutsche Telekom.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Free roaming isn't all that either

      So this is a success for the telecos u der the auspicious stewardship of H-dot.

      Actually no. The whole thing is running under Ansip's remit, Oettinger's got his fingers in other pies.

      As Kieren rightly points out the law is a typical fudge: roaming and net neutrality have nothing to do with each other and, therefore, shouldn't be on the same bill. But it was cooked up as a compromise to suit the nation states, who are more or less beholden to the telcos (though less in Germany than in France or the UK). Both the European Commission and the European Parliament have historically been much more pro-consumer in this field (Viviane Reding wanted to eliminate roaming charges over ten years ago!).

      The key to all the EU's regulation is making sure than a healthy wholesale market exists. For ISPs, this means LLU and occasionally inspecting peering agreements between the companies that provide the physical infrastructure of the internet. Without proper supervision some companies could, at least in theory, start offering their own private interwebs and thus ensuring exclusivity. Imagine one of the behemoths buying a film or TV studio.

      For mobile, this means the ability to choose a separate company to provide roaming services. I'm already in my second year of no roaming charges for calls, and this is on a German PAYG card. When visiting the UK I already have a dedicated SIM for data only, but wouldn't it be even easier to use my existing one but choose the same UK provider? On modern infrastructure phone calls have negligible marginal cost for providers, which is why they were so loathe to lose the free money they were making on roaming, but data may remain a permanent bottleneck (we'll always want to watch films using more bandwidth than is available on any particular cell). This would restrict investment because of the promise of negative returns without some kind of a cap. A wholesale market provides space for third parties to provide additional capacity. Got a low-data UK PAYG and visiting France? Why not buy 2GB for 1 week for 1 Euro directly from Orange France as opposed to whatever gouging your own provider has to offer? Arbitrage should lead to prices consolidating around a sustainable level over time.

      Net neutrality has been a largely hysterical sideshow, though it did raise some important issues. But, at the end of the day, does it really come down to being encouraged to use the streaming service of your ISP over something like Watchever?

  4. Graham Marsden

    "The European Parliament is essentially tossing a hot potato...

    " to the Body of European Regulators, national regulators, and the courts, who will have to decide how these spectacularly unclear rules will be implemented."

    And, no doubt, the British regulators will (under pressure from the Government) Gold Plate them such that the big players in the industry (in exchange for a few lucrative Directorships) get a free pass to do what the hell they like and all the little people get shafted...

    1. chris121254

      Re: "The European Parliament is essentially tossing a hot potato...

      no they wont if we stop them! also ant we leaving the EU soon anyway

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The European Parliament is essentially tossing a hot potato...

      you may want to look at this before commenting

      1. Mike Pellatt

        Re: "The European Parliament is essentially tossing a hot potato...

        I looked.

        It's 3 years old. A couple of decades, or more, in "Internet Time" (I feel dirty for saying that....)

        Legislation trumps any voluntary code.

        So the point is ?

  5. cyrus

    Two tier

    Looked like two beir for a sec and I thought it sounded like a good idea. Oh well the icon thought it sounded good too.

  6. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Why is everyone moaning about two-tier internet speed etc. A few years ago (and maybe even today), with ADSL you could pay £x for upto 2 Meg, £y for upto 8 meg. It meant ISP's could charge for the geeks downloading movies etc (cos back then, only they really knew how) and break even on Average Joe and Joan just surfing and shopping.

    This is what will happen again. You want fast speed, pay for it. It's the same with cars. You get the cheap Smart ForTwo and can only go upto 60mph or you pay big bucks for a Porsche 911 which can go more than three times that.

    As long as ISP's give a realistic choice it's not a problem.

    1. Markablejones

      You're only looking at the end user side of the ISP market

      Net neutrality addresses the edge provider side of the market--it's a debate over whether ISPs can use their gatekeeper status between the edge provider and the consumer to extract more profits from the edge provider. In some instances--say for Facebook--it's beneficial for Facebook to pay the ISP for a fast lane so long as all other traffic is related to a slow lane, because tiny variances in load time actually equate to huge variances in traffic (250 milliseconds is the threshold, according to Microsoft). So, by paying to be in a fast lane, Facebook is creating a barrier to market entry for all future competitors, and VCs won't even bother investing in potential competitors.

      In short: net neutrality is about whether ISPs can flex their gatekeeper power over edge provider's access to consumers, artificially imposing bandwidth shortages in order to extract more profits and provide competitive advantages for those companies willing to pay for it.Allowing ISPs to do so happens to ruin everything that is great about the internet: open, innovative, competitive, quirky, varied -- that internet is now dying.

    2. NinjasFTW

      Yes but what happens when you spend big bucks for your Porsche and then you try and drive down a road that is 'sponsored' by Toyota.

      Suddenly you find that your speed is limited to 28 MPH, your cruise control wont work, your radio automatically switches to a station playing only ads and your cup holders fold themselves away.

      That is what a two tiered internet offers.

      1. Badvok

        "Yes but what happens when you spend big bucks for your Porsche and then you try and drive down a road that is 'sponsored' by Toyota."

        You don't, you choose a road that is 'sponsored by Porsche' or that is neutral. Your analogy fails because you assume you only have the choice of one road, while in real life this is often the case it is certainly not the case when it comes to ISPs.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glad they have their priorities straight

    Banning powerful vacuums is clearly more important.

  8. d3rrial

    Well, ...

    the politicians in the European Parliament are all traitors anyway... They lick the assholes of everyone who gives them money until they're sore regardless who it is... I would not be surprised about the rise of a new EU sanctioned Hitler, just because he paid the EU Parliament enough lobby money to legalize genocide.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Well, ...

      I think you forgot your medication this morning.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Internet 2.0

    Open and free

    Non commercial

    Apply: Non 5 eyes country

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: WANTED

      We could build that again using the tech we had 25 years ago. Dial direct into the "new" isp's modem banks with your 56k modem down your old fashioned land line. The thing is, you missed a criteria.

      Open and free.

      Non Commercial.

      Not slower than the one we have now.

      1. Ogi

        Re: WANTED

        Or build community wifi networks, like was done in the 2000's in Eastern Europe and other countries (where broadband was expensive and rare at first). Modern wifi kit is pretty damn fast (a lot faster than the 11/56mbit you'd get from 802.11b/g back then). Sure it might not compete with fibre to the premises, but it should be decent enough for general use. Then just link different local wifi networks with a VPN over standard internet (if people pooled together on the costs, you could get some pretty powerful pipe).

        In EE people even made money off community wifi, some became wifi ISPs, and eventually moved into being normal ISPs. How it worked, is you would pay for the hardware (or buy it yourself), you would pay (one-off payment) to be connected to a nearby wifi AP, and then you could use the network unrestricted. After that you could pick an Internet gateway that resides on the network, pay a monthly fee like you normally would for internet, and then just set your default route to what they tell you.

        Or build an encrypted overlay over the internet, like the I2P project. So you use the commercial infra, but as it is all encrypted, it is of little use to them for spying. I suspect the response would be to shove all encrypted comms to the lowest priority, but the multitude of businesses, or people working from home, etc... on VPNs would preclude it (I would hope).

        If push comes to shove, there are still options, however still worth trying to stop them from their plans.

    2. Badvok

      Re: WANTED

      You could have all that now if you wanted, all you need is someone with a few spare $blns and you can build your own open, free, non-commercial internet and let everyone use it. However, in the real world, I think we'll have to stick to having commercial interests invest money in the system and for some inexplicable reason put up with them expecting some kind of return.

  10. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good article

    So much of El Reg is either slap-dash or PR for some vested interest, so it's nice to see articles like these.

  11. fritsd

    who is the bundler?

    "The voting wasn't just over net neutrality – it was bundled with the big issue of data roaming."

    So then the big question becomes: who decided to tie these two distinct issues together??

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: who is the bundler?

      That is exactly the question I came here to raise. I have been baffled for years about how the American system of bundling a controversial measure in a completely unrelated but sure-to-pass Bill. I now find the EU dies the same, and want to know how it can be stopped.

  12. nijam Silver badge

    Much of the problem would go away if ISPs were completely separated from content distrbutors, and revert to being only data pipes,. As it is, though, with BT broadband you'll get slower video from Sky and Virgin channels, with Virgin broadband you'll get slower access to BT sport and Sky channels, and so on.

    At the moment it appears that those ISPs are overcharging on basic connectivity to subsidise their bundled content services - admittedly the figures are (deliberately?) obscured, but it seems clear enough.

    This is a different (albeit related) issue to separating BT from OpenReach, BTW.

    As has been pointed out, the language of the new rules is so vague as to be functionally devoid of meaning. There will no prospect of any legal challenge to an ISP succeeding under this legislation unless it is very substantially clarified. But it won't be, will it?

    1. Badvok

      That's got nothing to do with net-neutrality, all that would have still been possible with all the amendments because ISPs would still have been allowed to manage traffic on their networks, including cross-connects. There was no amendment that said that they had to provide the same bandwidth from other parts of the internet as they do from within their own zone.

  13. noominy.noom

    Speeds and feeds are not the central issue.

    I see a lot of commentards here focus on speeds and data caps. Neither of those are directly related to net neutrality. Net neutrality is about censorship. When I pay for a connection to the Internet I do not want my ISP to decide what I can and can't access. They may not censor content directly if they just artificially slow it. But the effect would be the same. Right now, in the US, the primary focus is on video, as many ISPs are trying to sell video services. But if any censorship is allowed, it will expand. And it is not about money. Not directly. I am willing to pay a fair price that a company would need to supply a connection at a given speed. I just don't want them deciding what I get to access with that connection.

    Many of the commentards that commented before me stated that competition will sort that out. I believe they are partly correct. I have two problems with that though. One, I don't want to have to buy multiple connections. If one ISP won't carry You Tube, another ISP won't allow VPNs, another won't carry Netflix... I think you get the idea. The other problem I have is time. I am middle aged. I am in the US. There likely won't be competition in my area in my life time. If that was an isolated phenomena I would agree that it was my choice to move to an area that had better choices. Sadly, it is not an isolated phenomena.

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