Dutch parliament approves mobile 'net neutrality'

Jun 22, 2011 By TOBY STERLING , AP Business Writer

(AP) -- The Dutch parliament approved a bill Wednesday forcing mobile Internet providers to let customers use Skype and other rival services on their networks without charging extra or giving preferential treatment to their own offerings.

Once the bill is passed by the senate - usually a formality - the Netherlands may set an example for Europe by enacting one of the strongest "" laws on record.

including Vodafone, and the former Dutch state telecom Royal KPN NV had lobbied against the bill, claiming it may result in higher prices for customers or make it impossible to offer quality guarantees for key services.

However, advocates argued it will ensure the telecoms don't abuse their control over mobile networks to stifle competition and innovation. The Dutch bill was endorsed by consumer groups, "digital freedom" activists, and is seen as benefiting big software and content companies, notably Facebook, Skype owner Microsoft, and .

Although net neutrality has been debated by policy makers and the industry for a decade, the key provisions of the Dutch bill took shape in just two months as politicians reacted swiftly to a public outcry over telecom KPN's pricing policies.

"When it hits the wallet, it hits home," said Daphne van der Kroft of Bits of Freedom, an organization that opposes online restrictions.

In April, KPN announced poor first as customers using smart phones flocked to a messaging service called "WhatsApp." WhatsApp enables phone users with a mobile Internet subscription to send messages for no additional charge, sidestepping KPN's lucrative SMS business. In response, KPN chief executive Eelco Blok announced plans to charge customers extra for using Skype and WhatsApp.

The move backfired spectacularly.

Customers were outraged, and many began questioning for the first time how the company even knew which applications they were using on their phones.

Internet providers routinely monitor traffic on their network for a range of reasons, including removing bottlenecks, protecting customers from viruses and spam, and adhering to law enforcement demands.

But to track which customers are using WhatsApp or , KPN would need to look relatively carefully at the data being transferred, using a practice known as "deep packet inspection."

KPN argued the practice is common in the industry and it doesn't eavesdrop on customers.

But the Netherlands' consumer rights watchdog demanded an investigation into possible privacy violations, and politicians, reading public sentiment, moved to stop the plan. One of the bill's co-authors, Labor MP Martijn van Dam, compared KPN to "a postal worker who delivers a letter, looks to see what's in it, and then claims he hasn't read it."

In a statement, KPN said it "regrets that parliament didn't take more time for this legislation," adding it is now considering other options to recoup lost revenues.

Vodafone said the bill would "lead to a large increase in prices for mobile Internet for a large group of consumers" by blocking the company from offering varying prices for varying services.

The Dutch bill comes at a crucial time, as most European countries are debating how to enact EU Commission rules on net neutrality.

Explore further: Creating the fastest outdoor wireless Internet connection in the world

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dutch parliament voting on mobile 'net neutrality'

Jun 21, 2011

(AP) -- The Dutch parliament appears set to approve a bill Tuesday that would force mobile Internet providers to let their customers use Skype and other third-party services on their networks without charging extra or giving ...

Dutch selloff of KPN fans takeover fears

Dec 07, 2005

Few industries have been directly affected by sweeping technological changes than the telecommunications sector, but it has also remained one of the most closely controlled by the public sector worldwide. European telecommunications ...

Recommended for you

Why the Sony hack isn't big news in Japan

12 hours ago

Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, featured a story about Sony Corp. on its website Friday. It wasn't about hacking. It was about the company's struggling tablet business.

Off-world manufacturing is a go with space printer

16 hours ago

On Friday, the BBC reported on a NASA email exchange with a space station which involved astronauts on the International Space Station using their 3-D printer to make a wrench from instructions sent up in ...

Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

17 hours ago

Cadillac said Thursday it will add high resolution streaming video to the function of a rearview mirror, so that the driver's vision and safety can be enhanced. The technology will debut on the 2016 Cadillac ...

Sony faces 4th ex-employee lawsuit over hack

17 hours ago

A former director of technology for Sony Pictures Entertainment has sued the company over the data breach that resulted in the online posting of his private financial and personal information.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MorganW
not rated yet Jun 22, 2011
If this passes, it will be very interesting to watch this and see if it kills or spurs innovation and whether or not it ends up helping or costing the consumer.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.