24 June 2011

Net Neutrality: On The Legislation Path In The Netherlands


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Image by Alias 0591 on Flickr

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Those interested in telecommunications regulation and, particularly, in questions related to net neutrality have already heard it – the Netherlands has become the first country in Europe to introduce the concept of network neutrality into its national law.

Has it really?

Well, last week Kees Verhoeven from Democrats 66 (D66), Martijn van Dam from the Labour Party (PvdA), Sharon Gesthuizen from the Socialist party (SP) and Bruno Braakhuis from the GreenLeft (GroenLinks)

Lodged A Bill

to enshrine net neutrality with the House of Representatives of the Netherlands (the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament). Here is a link to the original document (in Dutch) and a fair translation of it in English.

According to Daphne van der Kroft from the Dutch civil rights platform Bits of Freedom

The Second Chamber (parliament) has accepted the bill with an impressively broad majority. Now the bill will go to the senate before entering into force. Because of the majority in parliament, we expect the Senate to pass it too. But we’ll have to wait ’till the end of the year to be sure.

That, to be precise, somehow invalidates the widely celebrated media headlines of the “Dutch enactment” of net neutrality, but – as Daphne writes – the chances, for it to happen, are good.
We are likely to have the final result in a year or so.

Now let us have a closer look at the bill!

Systematically, the applicants have chosen the section

End Users Interests

which is dealt with in Article 7 of the Telecommunications Act to introduce the net neutrality bill.

The bill basically provides that ISP may hinder or slow down end users’ traffic only in the very limited cases described in Article 7.4a (1) a. to d.

A further interesting provision is contained in Article 7.4a (2) – ISP must not shut off end users’ networks from the Internet, if such networks may be considered detrimental (e.g. botnets), unless ISP have given the operators of the affected networks the possibility to rectify the faults in those networks.

The most commented provision, however, is to be found in Article 7.4a (3) – the one that prevents ISP from charging prices that might bar end users from accessing specific services or applications on the Internet.
The applicants stress that this still allows for the charging of different prices for different types of bandwidth, but it nevertheless must not result in overpricing the use of, say, Skype so that no one would consider using it.

Article 7.4a (5) foresees the introduction of minimum requirements regarding the quality of service of public electronic communication services in order to safeguard the above provisions.

Finally and for the sake of completeness, Article 7.4a (4) reflects the recent trend in Dutch legislation to delegate the creation of detailed rules and regulations to administrative bodies.

Conclusion

In my view the beginning to a Europe wide legislation on net neutrality has been made.

Consumers from other member states will very likely create pressure upon their political leadership to follow the Dutch example.

How long could politicians refrain from adopting net neutrality legislation, if their voters start to sing

Somewhere over the rainbow

Way up high,

There’s a land that I heard of

Once in a lullaby.

What do you think?

25 March 2011

Europe’s Last Stand Against Data Retention?


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The Matrix has you...photo © 2008 Roman Pinzon-Soto | more info (via: Wylio)

Do you remember Morpheus saying “Wake up Neo… The Matrix has you!”?
Do you remember Agent Smith implanting an electronic tracking bug in Neo’s body?
I bet you do, because the image transported by this film does not appear that fictional anymore.
It may be just an arm’s length away.
Yes, I am talking about the retention of your communication traffic data. By “you” I mean all of you who live under the jurisdiction of a member state of the European Union. Any member state? Hmm, well, possibly not, but let me first explain

What is data retention and its purpose?

Data retention in the sense of the Directive 2006/24/EC provides for the storage data arising out of telephone calls made and received, emails sent and received and websites visited. Since location data counts to traffic data, it is collected too.

The introduction of data retention has always been justified with combating terrorism and serious crimes, but it aims to fight file-sharing users instead.

Owing to its controversy, legislation produced by transposition of the data retention Directive has been contested in some EU member states. While Ireland challenged Directive’s compatibility with formalities under the then current EC Treaty,  the constitutional courts of Romania and Germany were asked to deal with data retention’s compatibility with fundamental human rights. As a consequence, the respective provisions got abrogated, but not annulled.

Data retention gains territory

Until recently, Austria managed to postpone the transposition of the Directive 2006/24/EC into its national law. Well, the ostensible resistance grounded on discrepancies between the two coalition forming parties rather than on human rights deliberations.

Doris Bures, Austria’s Minister of Transport, Innovation and Technology announces the upcoming enactment of data retention. Courtesy to APA (Archiv/Fohringer)

However, some weeks ago the farce went to an end and a bill amendment to the telecommunications act was nodded through the council of ministers prior to its submittal to the parliament. Reportedly, the bill is being heavily discussed among the members of the parliament justice committee. The result will be, despite all assurances, the total control of communication.

Now that Austria will no longer be a safe harbour in terms of privacy, are there any other member states that still have not implemented the data retention directive?
Let us have a look at the map of Europe…
Is someone missing?
Yes, there is!

The land of milk and honey

Flag countrysidephoto © 2009 Håkan Dahlström | more info (via: Wylio)

 

Can you imagine: the Swedes usually known for their discipline and law-abiding behaviour are now obstructing the implementation of Directive 2006/26/EC.
It seems that an arrangement among the Left Party, the Green Party and the Swedish Democrats managed to apply a procedural loophole in order to delay the transposition for at least a year.

What does it mean?

As I previously mentioned, the data retention directive has been referred to a judicial review a few times already. These reviews’ action items towards legislation always read the same: improve!
In this respect, it is likely that the Court of Justice of the European Union delivers a judgment dealing with data retention’s compatibility with fundamental human rights under the acquis.

The good news at the end

I still have hope that this madness will come to an end. Not only because hope springs eternal, but because anyone can make an effort and engage in lawfully fighting data retention.
At least anyone who cares about fundamental human rights.

And if Sweden should fail, then it could be us as individuals who form Europe’s last stand against data retention!

 

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