Digital rights activists are calling proposed European Union (EU) rules on net neutrality seriously flawed after they were made public on Tuesday. The groups take issue with vagueness of the language used and the presence of significant loopholes that would allow the rules to avoided.
The rules, although banning providers from blocking or doctoring internet speeds, allow the management of internet traffic in cases of “temporary or exceptional congestion”, but they do not explain what "temporary" or "exceptional" means.
Dutch Member of the European Parliament (EP) Marietje Schaake has demanded “clearer language that unequivocally safeguards net neutrality in Europe and the compromise reached is a watered down version of the strong ambitions of the European Parliament."
"We need to make sure Europe can lead in safeguarding the open internet, fostering innovation, and ensuring fair competition in the digital single market," she said.
Digital rights activists say they fear the use of vague language to describe specialized services will mean there will be a two-tier internet of fast lanes and slow lanes.
Digital rights group Access spokesperson Estelle Massé said "EU institutions have agreed on a contradictory text that does not deliver net neutrality".
"With rules protecting access to the internet and others handing over the future of the internet to telcos, it will be up to courts to decide whose interests prevail.”
Computer and Communications Industry Association spokesperson James Waterworth, said the news law are open interpretation.
"The agreement is right to allow for traffic management and specialised services, but also right to prohibit discrimination and ensure that traffic is treated in a non-discriminatory manner.
However, the rules will only be worth something if effectively supervised by national telecoms regulators. This will be the critical next step," he said.
Tim Wu, the inventor of net neutrality as a concept, said it if there was a two-tier system, the only ones who would benefit would be the big U.S. internet giants.
The Director of the European digital rights group EDRi, Joe McNamee said “What is the point of agreeing to adopt legislation that makes the legal situation less clear than it was before? Now we have text which could mean almost anything.”
The only silver cloud for those opposed to the proposed rules was that to-date, only the core text of the law had been agreed to and that a full precise explanation to its meaning could come with the yet to be finalized explanatory notes.
Once that happens the Telecoms Single Market regulation will have to be officially approved by the EP .