The European Parliament has made progress towards the protection of a free internet. The new laws eliminate roaming charges in Europe and promote equality in the realm of the internet. However, the rejection of stronger amendments with stricter guidelines is cause for uncertainty in the region. In essence, four possible loopholes are exposed for internet companies to take advantage of.
The first of the potential loopholes is the ability to categorize certain products as “zero-rating”. Internet service providers will be able to offer subscribers services that they can use without having to worry about depleting their data allotments. The connection needed to run these “zero-rated” products is unique from other programs in that they don’t contribute to the customer’s overall data use. While this may seem like an interesting proposition, this loophole makes it possible for companies to promote some apps and leave rivals behind. If you could use one streaming video app without using data, it becomes more difficult to rationalize using a competing brand.
The second of the loopholes is the acceptance of what are known as internet fast lanes. Internet service providers can give certain traffic a designation to enter a fast lane and travel quicker than other products. At times, this can be reasoned, given that autonomous vehicles may require a quicker connection than the instant message you need to send. However, the problem lies in that corporations may enter in agreements with service providers that allow their line of apps or services to enter fast lanes. Again, this undermines net neutrality and the original free internet.
The third possible flaw is similar to fast lanes in that certain traffic is made quicker than others. Internet providers have access to how they prioritize what is done on their network. They can now increase the speed certain services have in comparison to others. The main concern here is that encrypted traffic will be negatively affected, giving its secretive nature. The final loophole enables ISPs to throttle data when it anticipates a high demand for its networks. Even if the network is not currently experiencing strain, all it takes is for an internet provider to think there might be for service to slow down.
While the European Parliament has increased the protection of net neutrality in the European Union, there may be some work left to be done. Many companies and individual are pushing for a completely free and unobstructed internet, as it initially was, while others are arguing for a more organized and customizable internet. Which ideology prevails remains to be seen, but the issue is no doubt hotly contested.