Search This Blog

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A tip of the hat to Dutch Minister Maxime Verhagen (Economic Affairs…) for making “Net neutrality” a right, protected by law.

Sometimes you see beauty in the most unlikely places:
People who know me, know that I am not the biggest fan of the current Dutch minority cabinet of CDA (Christian-democratic party) and VVD (conservative party), with its silent partner PVV (party for ‘freedom’; populist “anti” party).
But today I am giving a tip of the hat to Maxime Verhagen, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.
Verhagen wants to put ‘net neutrality’ as a right in the law. This right makes it possible for every internet user in The Netherlands to use free communication services like WhatsApp, Skype, Ping and Twitter, without being blocked or extra charged by his internet / smartphone provider; even if those free services are threatening the business model of the telecom / internet provider.

That is a very good law.
On April 22 + 23 and May 11, I wrote a series of articles on telecom companies that were (anticipating on) blocking or extra charging free internet services that were threatening their business model.
Here is one of the pertinent snips of the first article:
Yesterday afternoon, it became clear in which way KPN wants to compensate the losses it makes as a result of the social networks: the company wants to charge extra costs for the usage of social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and Ping on their mobile internet subscriptions. It does this by putting access to the social networks in a special mobile portfolio.
I am very glad that politics understood the message that ‘net neutrality’ is an indispensable commodity in a free and democratic country, like The Netherlands.

It is a disastrous development, when your internet or telecom provider can decide that you won’t get access to certain web companies, because they offer a free service that is interchangeable with their expensive service.

This development could eventually lead to governments that don’t offer their citizens access to certain webpages, because the information there is not at their liking: you all know the examples.
The Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad ( writes an article on this anticipated new law (link in Dutch). Here are the pertinent snips:
Verhagen wants ‘free access to internet’ to be protected by law.Telecom companies are not allowed to charge extra money for certain internet services, like Skype, Whatsapp and Voip. Minister Maxime Verhagen (Economic Affairs…) and the Second Chamber of Parliament reached an agreement on this subject.The Netherlands is the first country in Europe to make such a step. “From a European point-of-view, we are frontrunners. Fact is, that we were confronted with plans to charge money for competitive internet services at an earlier stage and more fiercely than other countries. We didn’t ask for that” according to the minister. More and more telecom companies want to charge extra money for free mobile internet services, like Skype, Whatsapp and Voip. 
VVD and CDA want to wait for a European investigation. Verhagen doesn’t want to wait, but if the European Commission comes with further instructions, he will look into it. “And if that is a reason for adjusting the regulations, we will speak eachother again”. 
MP Kees Verhoeven (D66;liberal party), who took the initiative with this proposal, together with PvdA (social-democrat party), SP (socialist party) and Groenlinks (environmental party), is very glad that the minister supports this plan for net neutrality. This makes filtering, delaying, extra charging and blocking of websites and mobile apps an illegal act. 
Verhagen stated that this step was triggered by the telecom market itself.  He thinks that companies that obstruct recent developments with their old earnings models are “on a road to nowhere”. Recent plans, like the extra charge for Skype, puts the possibilities to choose under pressure, according to the Minister. And: “by making this a law, we show how important an open internet is to us”. 
Dutch telecom company KPN states ‘to be a proponent of net neutrality and not wanting to block services’. “However, we regret that the Second Chamber didn’t take more time for this law”.
 The last red line shows the hypocrisy and crocodile tears of a former monopolist that overcharged its customers for ages and starts blubbering when the goose with the golden egg is suddenly killed.

The VVD and CDA show with the first red line that their liberalism ‘is something from the past’ and that they are there to protect the companies; not their citizens. Therefore I salute the bravery of this CDA-Minister, that went against the flow in his own party and supported this anticipated law.

No comments:

Post a Comment