The Dutch Lower House has approved a proposal from the government to prohibit zero rating. Zero rating is when telecom operators do not charge end customers for data used by specific applications or internet services but charge them for others. The Netherlands’ vote is in accordance with the country’s history of upholding strong net neutrality law, including the prohibition of zero rating.
Last year the European Parliament voted on a new Digital Single Market regulation. While the new European rules protect net neutrality to a large extent, on a number of crucial points the rules remain rather ambiguous. For example, as price discrimination is a violation of the net neutrality principle, the new European law allows for this abuse to be prohibited, but left some room for interpretation. Such a ban is, however, clearly within the scope of the adopted rules. With today’s vote, the Dutch parliament has made sure Dutch internet users and online services will continue to be protected against discriminatory practices.
“The Dutch parliament has taken action to protect users from telecom operators attempting to decide for that user what services to use,” says Rejo Zenger, privacy advocate of digital civil rights organization Bits of Freedom. “Both the Dutch government and parliament are to be applauded for their willingness to protect internet freedom and to uphold such a principle so important to the development of the internet,” he adds.
“Net neutrality fosters creativity and innovation. Zero rating makes it impossible for innovative startups like us to compete with existing monopolies,” according to Nalden, co-founder of Dutch startup WeTransfer. “Net neutrality is about preventing streets outside our houses from being replaced by toll-roads, where we need to pay to go anywhere,” he added.
Rejo Zenger, Bits of Freedom, +31 6 3964 2738, email@example.com
Daphne van der Kroft, Bits of Freedom, +31 6 4280 0968, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nalden, WeTransfer, email@example.com
In September 2013, the European Commission made a failed proposal to ensure net neutrality. In April 2014, the European Parliament voted for a strong, clear text which defended the neutrality of the internet, for the good of free speech, fair competition and innovation. In June 2015, after months of opposition from the EU Council, a compromise was found through the adoption of unclear language.
Zero rating is when telecom operators do not charge end customers for data used by specific applications or internet services. For example, a large telecom operator may enter a deal with a large streaming service like Spotify and allow users to listen to music without their data cap charged. Although this may seem beneficial to the user in the short term, in the long run it will discriminate against new services that may not be able to enter in these kinds of deals. This, in the end, will cripple innovation – one of the main characteristics of the internet.