Netherlands becoming the first European country to adopt net neutrality

The Dutch parliament has discussed an amendment to the telecommunications law that would ban network operators from discriminating against specific services or applications. If it is enacted, the Netherlands would become the second country worldwide to put net neutrality into law.

The amendment (PDF, in Dutch) obliges ISPs to implement net neutrality: “ISPs do not make tariffs for Internet access services dependent on the services or applications offered or used via these services”. Extra charges for certain services, such as VoIP or video streaming, would therefore be illegal.

The amendment was proposed by four left-leaning opposition parties, D’66, SP, GroenLinks, and PvdA, but has since gained broader support. In particular, the Minister of Economic Affairs, Maxime Verhagen (CDA) (in Dutch), has supported the bill. He said that “everybody must be able to get access to all information on the Internet”. His party’s libertarian coalition partner VVD has retracted an alternative amendment which would have allowed for content-based discrimination due to lack of support in parliament. The pro-net neutrality amendment was expected to be passed part of the telecommunications package this Tuesday, but the vote was delayed for a week. Nevertheless, it is expected to go through with support from nearly all parties in the parliament.

Civil rights organization Bits of Freedom (in Dutch) welcomed the broad consensus in favor of net neutrality, claiming the coming vote to be a “historical” decision. Indeed, the Netherlands would only be the second country worldwide to outlaw content-based discrimination on the side of ISPs, following Chile. The South American nation has enacted a net neutrality law nearly a year ago.

Net neutrality had become a hot button topic in the Netherlands after telecommunications provider KPN announced that it would charge mobile phone users additional fees for the usage of services such as VoIP, video streams, and instant messaging programs. The company later acknowledged that it is using deep packet inspection (DPI) to tell apart VoIP from other traffic.