I’ve been keeping you up to date about the situation around net neutrality in The Netherlands – and today, everything finally came to its logical conclusion. During a debate in our lower house, most of the kinks were ironed out, and our minister of economic affairs, Maxime Verhagen, will now turn net neutrality into law. This means that after Chile, The Netherlands will be the second country in the world to do so.
I already told you that Verhagen wished to comply with the lower house’s demands, but I failed to make the clarification that he just wanted to prohibit carriers and ISPs from throttling and blocking, without actually turning it into a law. During today’s debate, he faced an almost unanimous lower house asking for net neutrality to actually become a full-grown, big-boy law.
The only party against net neutrality was the VVD, by word of Afke Schaart. As detailed in our previous coverage, it was easily revealed that up until she was instated as a member of the lower house last July, she was actually a lobbyist for KPN, the largest carrier in The Netherlands, and the first to announce plans to start charging extra for applications that competed with calling and texting (VoIP and things like WhatsApp), including blocking and throttling of these services.
The fact Schaart worked for KPN for nearly a decade before introducing her own, competing proposal which did not include net neutrality, of course called her loyalty and trustworthiness into question. Not entirely unsurprisingly, she retracted her own motion during the debate today, after facing a very hostile lower house.
A few concerns of Verhagen were addressed during the debate. The right-wing Christian-extremists of the SGP were concerned that due to net neutrality becoming a law, the business of ISP-side content filtering of things like violence and porn would become impossible. Other parties in the lower house advocated that filtering of these types of content is a client-side issue (i.e., you should take care of that yourself), but Verhagen, being from a Christian party himself, felt sympathetic to this concern. As such, as long as customers specifically choose to have such content filtered on idealogical grounds, ISPs are free to do so.
Another important aspect of our new telecommunications act is that the use of deep packet inspection will be restricted. While ISPs and carriers will be prohibited from using DPI to spy on their customers, they may still use it to manage their networks. The use of DPI will be inspected by our telecommunications watchdog OPTA.
The official vote on our new telecommunications act will take place next Tuesday, but considering the near-unanimous support for it, that’s nothing more than a formality. The Netherlands will become the second country in the world to add net neutrality to its laws; Chile did so last year. With this, we are ahead of the rest of Europe – and we’re sure going to be a thorn in the eye of France and the UK, which have both decided to disregard net neutrality to start censoring the web; worse yet, France is actively trying to enact world-wide censorship of the web.