The European Parliament has voted to adopt the Telecoms Single Market bill without a proposed net neutrality requirement, which critics have claimed gives European service providers carte blanche to carve the internet up into fast and slow lanes.
Originally announced two years ago, the Telecoms Single Market bill has been the subject of vigorous lobbying by the telecommunications industry. Since its unveiling, opponents have argued that European telecoms companies should be required to abide by the tenets of net neutrality, the principle by which all internet traffic is treated equally, preventing ISPs from shoving customers onto 'slow lane' connections and degrading services like file downloading and video streaming unless they - or, commonly, the companies whose services are being degraded - pay for 'fast lane' connectivity.
Following negotiations between the European Union Parliament, Council, and Commission, the Telecoms Single Market regulation has been passed - but without the net neutrality requirement the telecoms industry had been lobbying so hard against. With a mere 50 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) attending the final debate, critics have claimed the process has been railroaded by telecommunications giants and that the revised legislation opens the door for tiered traffic treatment.
'MEPs have passed the buck on net neutrality. They have voted for an unclear and ambiguous piece of net neutrality legislation that fails to mention net neutrality,' said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, claiming that the revisions 'have created large loopholes' in the legislation. 'It is now up to national telecoms regulators to decide whether all our Internet traffic should be treated equally or whether rich companies will be able to outbid their smaller competitors for faster delivery of their services.'
Other areas of the bill, including an end to mobile roaming charges throughout Europe by 2017, have been included in the ratified version. Guidelines for its implementation are to be published early next year, the European Parliament has stated.