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ACM risks net neutrality in all of Europe

ACM zet netneutraliteit in heel Europa op het spel

The ACM (Authority for Consumers & Markets) has decided that T-Mobile may continue to violate the principle of net neutrality with its service “Data-free Music”. Bits of Freedom cannot be content with the decision and will challenge this decision.

Since last year, there are rules in all of Europe that state that the internet user must be allowed to decide freely for him- or herself what he or she does on the internet – a principle called net neutrality. Operators, however, have immediately started testing the limits of these rules. Soon after the rules came into effect, T-Mobile launched a subscription in which the use of certain music services is not deducted from the user's data plan. That certainly runs counter to the principle of net neutrality and, in the opinion of Bits of Freedom, the European net neutrality rules as well.

“By deciding what exactly constitutes a music service, T-Mobile decides which services are eligible for preferential treatment,” says Rejo Zenger, policy advisor at Bits of Freedom. Furthermore, not all services can or want to conform to T-Mobile's demands. This means that only a select few music services receive preferential treatment. That is harmful to the innovative nature of the internet. “The internet has gained its current position in our society so quickly precisely because every computer, and therefore every service, could be reached by every user as easily as the next, and without someones permission,” says Rejo Zenger.

With its decisionHere's the announcement of the ACM, the ACM undermines the innovative power of the internet for all of Europe. Because of the leading role that the Netherlands has played for years in the field of net neutrality, everybody in Europe is looking at enforcement in the Netherlands. “By not strictly enforcing the rules now, the ACM encourages weakening the protection of net neutrality throughout Europe,” says Rejo Zenger.

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Background: What happened before?

Bits of Freedom has advocated net neutrality for more than seven years. The Netherlands was the first in Europe to anchor net neutrality into law, in 2012. Since the end of 2015, similar rules hold for all of Europe. Since then, operators have been constantly testing the limits of these rules. T-Mobile did this with the subscription Datavrije Muziek, among other things. Earlier, ACM already ruled that this service runs counter to the Dutch explanation of these European rules. T-Mobile went to court over this and was vindicated. Bits of Freedom then filed an enforcement request. Today the ACM decided on our request.

Background: Net neutrality is the freedom of the internet user

Bits of Freedom thinks that if you get access to the internet, you should get access to the entire internet. You, and not your operator, should get to decide what you do on the internet. It sounds like a great offer: listening to Spotify on your phone without expending your data plan. And for the short term, it could be. But if operators offer one or more services more cheaply than their competitors, this yields an unfair advantage, taking away the opportunity for competitors and newcomers to compete for customers on their own merit.

Background: T-Mobile's Datavrije Muziek

T-Mobile's “Datavrije Muziek” runs counter to the principle of net neutrality. T-Mobile does this with “Datavrije Muziek”, a subscription in which music services can provide you with music without expending your data plan. But T-Mobile's subscription only works with a small number of music services. That is because T-Mobile gets to decide what a “legal music service” is, and furthermore because they impose all kinds of conditions upon the service providers. If such a provider can't or won't comply with this, they will be left out. Even though T-Mobile claims that every service can participate, reality is more unruly: months after the introduction, only a handful of music services have joined.

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