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European Union adopting regulations that will penalize Internet users, says RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the consequences that the European Union's adoption of the so-called Telecoms Package will have for bloggers and other Internet users.

"This Telecoms Package undermines the right to equal Internet access," said Reporters Without Borders, which in September 2009 joined more than 80 organisations from 15 EU member countries in signing an open letter voicing concern. "The European Union should have sent a strong signal by refusing to create a two-speed Internet."

The press freedom organisation added: "The European Council is allowing Internet operators to haphazardly determine the use of bandwidth as they see fit. This is already happening and it should be forbidden under the principle of Net neutrality."

The European Union has been debating the Telecoms Package, a collection of rules governing Internet access by computer and mobile phone, for the past year in Brussels. The European Council is currently conducting its second review of the bill and is due to finish by the end of the month.

The package should have given the EU the opportunity to guarantee Net neutrality, but all of the amendments that the European Parliament proposed with this in mind have been rejected by the council. Instead, the principle of Net neutrality is being ignored and the package seems well on its way to being approved as is.

Net neutrality means equal access to the same Internet for everyone, without technical restrictions, and the right, once access has been paid for and obtained, not to have anyone dictating what the user can or cannot do with it. No Internet company (access provider, search engine operator etc.) should be able to discriminate, prioritize or filter website content or information transmission (for example, by giving priority to information sent to a major corporation).

Net neutrality also means banning regulations that impose discretionary or arbitrary controls on bandwidth use (except when the security of the Internet or its users is threatened, or to deal with temporary technical problems). The Internet must remain neutral and independent as regards consumers and providers, and the type of information transmitted.

"It is incomprehensible that the EU's institutions do not enact such a basic principle as Net neutrality when tackling such a vital and complex bill," Reporters Without Borders continued. "This lack of coherence is all the more glaring because this principle of equality is in the process of being clearly incorporated into US and Canadian legislation. The problem could have been solved already, to avoid having to go back to it when the damage has been done. If Net neutrality is not guaranteed, some companies will relocate to the United States to escape the discrimination that is likely to be practised in Europe."

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