Draft document suggests EU taking step back from net neutrality; China remains dedicated to ‘orderly’ internet

20 Nov 2014

European Union (EU) governments are considering looser net neutrality rules as part of the European Commission’s (EC’s) ‘Connected Continent’ regulations (also known as the telecoms single market), Reuters writes, citing a draft document seen by the news agency. The new draft reportedly forbids internet service providers from applying traffic management measures which ‘block, slow down, alter, degrade or discriminate against specific content.’ Previously, in April this year, the European Parliament voted in favour of strict rules to prevent telecom operators from prioritising some internet traffic over others. The move will be well-received by the continent’s service providers, which have been lobbying for greater freedom with regard to traffic management, but consumer rights organisations have raised concerns over the potential impact on competition and civil rights should telcos be given free rein to control the flow of traffic. The draft document also included recommendations that a date for the introduction of ‘roam like home’ – which allows customers to roam on other networks within the EU without paying additional fees – be set as soon as possible.

Whilst the EU is taking a step back from plans for full net neutrality, China has confirmed that it remains dedicated to policing access to content on the internet. Speaking at the World Internet Conference, Chinese officials said that its cyberspace regulation could foster the creation of commercial successes like Alibaba Group – which made a record-breaking USD25 billion listing in New York in September – but Vice Premier Ma Kai added that ‘the internet is a double-edged sword. Well used, it’s Alibaba’s treasure, poorly used, it’s Pandora’s box. Cyber security is a shared challenge faced by human society. Effectively dealing with it is a shared responsibility for all governments.’ China has one of the most sophisticated censorship systems in the world, often referred to as the ‘Great Firewall’. Lu Wei, the director of the State Internet Information Office compared the internet to the busy tourist town of Wuzhen, which was hosting the event, explaining that: ‘This place is crowded with tourists, who are perfectly orderly, and cyberspace should also be free and open [but] with rules to follow, and always following the rule of law.’

China