Once Again, Europe Shows U.S. The Way

It might seem to follow that since the internet was developed in the United States, we would have the largest number of people who are served (per capita), we would have the very best, and fastest, infrastructure, and have the very best, most well thought out, legislation covering the use and policing of the internet.

Such is not the case.

No, an article in ZDNet UK shows that the European Union have a better idea about the way things should be.

The European Parliament has voted through a massive tranche of reforms for the European telecommunications sector, including a significant net-neutrality amendment.

The ‘Telecoms Package’ of laws was voted into force on Wednesday with a large majority, and must now be ratified by the Council of Telecoms Ministers. The vote marks the first time that internet access has been recognized in European law as a fundamental right on a par with freedom of expression.

The legislation also compels European telecoms and internet service providers (ISPs) to notify their customers of any personal data breaches, the first time they have been required to do so.

“I welcome the European Parliament’s strong endorsement of the reform of the EU telecoms rules,” Viviane Reding, Europe’s commissioner for telecoms and IT, said in a European Commission statement. “Now the ball is in the court of the Council of Telecoms Ministers to decide whether or not to accept this package of reforms.”

The package introduces a range of new telecoms measures. It brings in new rules to ensure that European consumers who want to change their fixed-line or mobile operator can do so in one working day. In addition, spectrum refarming — where 3G services can be used in what is currently 2G radio spectrum — is also to be allowed, so as to allow a faster rollout of high-speed mobile internet services.

It also establishes a new pan-European telecoms authority (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, or Berec), which will supersede the less formally arranged European Regulators Group

and later more about neutrality

On the net-neutrality issue, the Commission said in its statement that national telecoms regulators would be able to set minimum quality levels of internet-access services, so as to dissuade ISPs from degrading the quality of certain services through traffic management.

“In addition, thanks to the new transparency requirements, consumers will be informed – even before signing a contract — about the nature of the service to which they are subscribing, including traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations (such as bandwidth caps or available connection speed),” the Commission said.

The Commission specifically referred to these new rules as being designed to promote “net neutrality” and “net freedoms” for European citizens. The idea of net neutrality, or the equality of services on the internet, has traditionally been seen as an American issue, due to more limited competition in the US ISP market.

Recognizing internet access as a fundamental right, the Commission said that “any measures taken regarding access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, including in relation to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information and education, as well as due process”.

The article further speaks about the privacy and data protection that users in the EU can expect, which is something that is good to have spelled out. Many times in the United States, we have an idea about things as they are, only to find out that is how they should be, but nothing guarantees it.

The possibility of reforms in this country seems to get to be more and more a passing idea, one that is fast becoming a passing fancy. Simply because we have a larger population should not be a barrier, we are given the tools to inform the public of the need for these guarantees. Perhaps we don’t have them because we (the general populace) doesn’t really care enough, and only becomes concerned at times when the realities of our problems hit in the face.

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