back to article Net neutrality lives... in Europe, anyway: Top court supports open internet rules, snubs telcos and ISPs

Europe’s top court has decided that the continent’s network neutrality rules will stand, rejecting challenges from the telecoms industry. In a ruling [PDF] on Tuesday, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that “the requirements to protect internet users’ rights and to treat traffic in a non-discriminatory …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I can see that these zero cost tariff options (e.g. Netflix, Facebook, Youtube traffic doesn't count) are good for the consumer and are a way for an ISP to differentiate itself in the market.

    But I can also see that it could be seen as a slippery slope to only allowing blessed video streaming or social media companies.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      It just places another hurdle in the way of anyone who tries to set up an alternative to the favoured services.

      You're also likely to find that the ISP will be more willing to cap the rest of the traffic because the sites the user uses the most are 'free'. This will then add another hurdle for 'alternative' sites when they soak up a users precious cap, and the users only option being to go back to the 'free' service.

      1. Captain Hogwash

        Re: users only option being to go back to the 'free' service

        Herding cattle. Not OK unless you're happy to see yourself as livestock. Mind you, 2.7 billion Facebook users can't be wrong </sarcasm>

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      While there are certain situations where this kind of approach might have merit, current deals are merely commercial: the content providers are paying the networks for privileged access to consumers and this cannot be welcome.

      What I think we will see over time is some kind of minimal, free service that all networks must provide. Say 500 MB a month at 3G speeds (adjust these numbers to suit). This would allow most people to communicate and stay informed, I also think we'll see more of the T-Mobile US approach to "unlimited" video usage but only at lower resolutions – bandwidth contention is more of an issue that total data traffic – but this should apply to all providers.

      1. vogon00

        "Say 500 MB a month at 3G speeds"

        That seems a sensible suggestion - 3G Speeds are fine for most truly mobile users. However, with all the 'content rich' web pages out there 500MB is so easy to pass (Auto-start video is a particular hate of mine).

        There is also a lot of merit in the 'at reduced resolution' idea - who in the hell *needs* to watch 1080p or better on a 4.5" screen? What's the point? If you think there is a significant difference, please tell me as I would love to sell you some oxygen-free copper speaker cables.

        The interesting thing here is that people using 4G and the allegedly-soon-to-be-useful 5G as a replacement to traditional hard-line xDSL,DOCSIS or FTTP may have a different POV.

        Telcos please note : Live by the (bandwidth/speed) sword, die by the (bandwidth/speed) sword.

      2. HellDeskJockey

        These days 500MB is not enough. Emails and a week of Web Access will eat that up. My current home plan (4G) has 20GB and even that takes some watching to stay within my plan. Especially staying away from sites that insist on playing live video every time you visit.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Sorry, you seem to have completely misunderstood my point. I was talking about what might become mandated as a minimal free service. Having had such a service for a couple of years I know how limited it is, but also how useful. But more importantly, I know that it's doable for the networks. Might end up being 2 GB on 4G, but the principle is the same. As for autostart videos: there are browsers that stop them.

          1. HellDeskJockey

            I think we agree more than we disagree. I would agree on minimal free service but it has to be a reasonable level. These days even a couple of cell phone pictures or ads can be several MB of data. Things just need to be realistic is all. As for browsers I do prefer Brave but it's not always easily available on every OS I use. While I could make it work, that takes time I don't have at the moment.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              In my original post I said the values would need adjusting a bit but speaking from experience I can say that as long as you don't stream anything 500 MB goes a long way. Many countries already have similar basic tariffs for phone and internet. Obviously not America because that would be socialis and that's evil!

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          These days 500MB is not enough

          500MB is more than enough for me. Not everyone is you.

          1. HellDeskJockey

            > Not everyone is you.

            According to my girlfriend that is a very good thing.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "are good for the consumer"

      Which consumer? Some consumer may have no use for such services, and what if one gives you Netflix for free but not Sky, Disney or Youtube, or any combination of them? That's not good for the user at all, which is jailed to some services. And those agreement may even change with time...

    4. ExampleOne

      On the one hand I can see that these zero cost tariff options (e.g. Netflix, Facebook, Youtube traffic doesn't count) are good for the consumer

      Actually the court, according to this article, is quite clear that these are NOT in fact good for the consumer in the medium and long term because they reduce competition. From the article:

      It went on: “Furthermore, the greater the number of customers concluding such agreements, the more likely it is that, given its scale, the cumulative effect of those agreements will result in a significant limitation of the exercise of end users’ rights, or even undermine the very essence of those rights.”

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "Actually the court, according to this article, is quite clear that these are NOT in fact good for the consumer in the medium and long term because they reduce competition"

        Back in dialup days, several telcos imposed per-minute charges on modem calls to ISPs - except their own ISP

        The effect on competition was obvious but they largely got away with it

        Many have kept applying that model

    5. Remy Redert

      The only way I could see zero-rating being acceptable at all is when the user gets to pick (freely) what websites or services to zero rate. Of course that would never happen because then ISPs can't make deals with a limited number of services and collect money from them.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "But I can also see that it could be seen as a slippery slope to only allowing blessed video streaming or social media companies."

      Correct. An outright ban of "a fast lane" prevents people from buying better service than the next person. I would like to be ABLE to do just that. If I pay more, I SHOULD get better service. Right?

      On the other hand, the potential for abuse is ALSO there. So the fix is NOT to outright ban a service in which you pay for faster streaming [as an example] or "priority" content in general, but rather to REGULATE it such that competing services won't be "throttled" [including peer-to-peer and non-commercial traffic]. A typical regulation might allow a 2:1 boost of priority traffic as long as it's below 70% total capacity [for example], and that non-priority traffic would still be at a service level equivalent to what it was before. So it's not being "throttled", just "not boosted". And the company doing it might have to explicitly disclose everything they boost. Then consumers can choose.

      "Net Neutrality" is yet another case of possible "well intentioned" ideas becoming anti-freedom, anti-capitalist, or anti-progress. So we're all stuck in the SAME PERFORMANCE GHETTO. Wheee.

      No solution is perfect. THIS one is probably the worst of all available choices.

      1. deep_enigma

        "If I pay more, I SHOULD get better service. Right?"

        Sure, because YOU have decided that you want this or that service to work better FOR YOU. The problem comes when it's the ISP and/or content provider who pays extra for priority, giving that specific content provider (or in many cases in the US, the content division of the ISP/telco) a "free" ride into YOUR home - and leaving you stuck with shoddy service from the content providers you DO have an account with, because despite paying your ISP for the top-tier multi-gigabit-symmetrical connection, they're prioritizing someone else's traffic leaving you no better off than if you switched to the entry-level tin-can-and-string 1.5Mbps DSL.

  2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    Big Brother

    A thought

    Since all of my traffic goes out via a VPN I presume I would gain no benefit from these 'free' sites ...... unless I take down my VPN so that my ISP can (re)start tracking what I'm doing.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A thought

      In the US you can benefit from using the VPN to watch Netflix if your ISP is also a cable company who is losing TV revenue to Netflix and totally coincidentally happens to degrade Netflix bandwidth for totally innocent technical reasons.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Europe that terrible overbearing beurocracy

    Protecting ordinary people from the 'nice' money men (and women)

    ... again.


    1. Tomato42

      Re: Europe that terrible overbearing beurocracy

      another good reason for Brexit! Just look where unfettered capitalism brings the society in the US! Such profits!


      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Europe that terrible overbearing beurocracy

        " Europe’s top court decided that money does not come before people’s rights"

        The very definition of totalitarianism - damn Brussels burocrats

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    “measures blocking or slowing down traffic are based not on objectively different technical quality of service requirements for specific categories of traffic, but on commercial considerations, those measures must in themselves be regarded as incompatible with Article 3(3).”

    That's traffic shaping dealt with then. Good. Oh, we in the UK don't benefit, of course. We've TBC so the ISPs can do as they like.

  5. hmv

    Another Reason to Rejoin the EU

    Good decision!


    So does this mean that zero rated services in the UK like Three' Go Binge are... illegal?

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      if the government continues to go the Chinese way and renege on the treaties or agreements it signed, you'll be able to enjoy "free" services.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      In all liklihood, yes

      This decision puts Ofcom in an interesting position as they've previously ruled these discriminatory tariffs are legal

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >This decision puts Ofcom in an interesting position

        But Ofcom is now only answerable to The Cummings, not the Eu


          You mean the Cu?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "You mean the Cu?"

            Is that the New Technology, or NT version?

  7. jockmcthingiemibobb

    So does this preclude QoS on contended links? For example, is the ISP now meant to allow torrent traffic to degrade video or video to degrade http or VOIP?

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      No, net neutrality doesn't mean QoS isn't allowed. It means QoS can't prioritize based on whose VOIP or video traffic it is. So you can prioritize VOIP traffic but if you do so you have to prioritize ALL VOIP traffic, not just your own VOIP traffic or that of favored partners. If you have caps you have to count EVERYTHING against the cap, not carve out special exclusions like "if you stream Hulu that doesn't count against your cap because they paid us".

    2. Andrew Norton

      You are Richard Bennett and I claim my £5

  8. msobkow Silver badge

    In the US, EVERYTHING is ruled by money - government, police, legal system, health care - anything and everything is for sale to the highest bidder, and too bad for the poor. Let them eat cake (or McDonald's.)

    1. Jay Lenovo

      For a fist full of dollars

      I find the necessity to apply network traffic discrimination odd, since the monopolistic providers that be, don't seem to have any issue allowing spam calls to waste precious bandwidth hitting my phone.

      TMobile for instance, will block the evil spam callers for a fee. Yet, you'd think prioritizing your internet traffic for common use would require a fee too, if it were to "our" greater benefit.

      We may have avoided a national internet tax, but it seems the ISP's seem to have their own "little" fiefdoms of laissez faire regulated toll roads.

  9. n10cities

    Eliminate data caps.........

    Eliminate data caps and treat all traffic as equal......problem solved...

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Eliminate data caps.........

      And give everyone a free pony!

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