The internet is a global system of interconnected networks that use the protocol suite to link billions of devices the world over. It’s a network of networks that consists of millions of public, private, government, business and academic ones ranging in scope. The internet carries with it a boundless amount of information, services and resources, and is linked via electronic or wireless technologies most commonly.
Recently, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) published new net neutrality guidelines to make sure everyone had open internet access. This acts as the final stage in a process spanning three years of adopting legislation in the European Union.
Said guidelines have been seen as a victory by the open web as it promotes net neutrality, the concept where all data is treated equally, no matter the content. Before they were put into action, firms had the ability to pay larger amounts of money to make sure their services ran faster, but BEREC said that only certain specialised services will now have access to this.
Consumer rights have been laid out in the regulations too, stating that EU Citizens are free to access and distribute information, run applications and use services of their choice. The only way you can’t do this is if they’re illegal in some form.
In past times, established firms like Google and Facebook would have, in theory, been able to pay internet service providers (ISPS) for better traffic management, or ‘fast lane’ access. When this was happening, the EU was criticised for not doing enough to prevent it and promote fairness.
Now that the fast lane internet access has been removed, BEREC hopes that the public will benefit as it will ensure more competitive markets between ISPs. Regulators shall be permitted to give preference to specialised services, so long as it doesn’t degrade others. These specialised services include real-time health duties, like video feeds used for remote surgeries, and live broadcasts over internet TV providers.
Under these new rules, throttling, blocking and the discrimination of internet traffic by ISPs will be denied in the EU, aside from three exceptions. These are the compliance of legal obligations, integrity of the network, and congestion management in temporary and exceptional situations. For those who don’t know, throttling is a technique designed to minimise congestion and manage traffic. It can cause a loss of speed and affect the content quality though.
TechEye reported however, that the guidelines will still permit targeted throttling of torrents and other traffic by claiming it to be network management. To some extent at least, this means ISPs shall still be allowed to continue with some of their existing practices.
The guidelines say that all service and content providers must have the means to provide their services through a high-quality open internet in the EU. Such providers include websites full of content like Netflix and WIRED, and services providers such as Virgin Media or Sky. As such, anyone who provides internet services or online content in the EU has to abide by these rules.