Several alarming amendments to the Telecom Package second reading in the European Parliament are to be voted on 31 March 2009 by ITRE/IMCO committee. The amendments are meant to give additional control to the entertainment industry, telecoms and IT security companies over the Internet.
An agreement on several delicate issues of the telecom package is sought in a trialogue between the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission to agree on a resolution regarding politically sensitive and technically difficult aspects of the Telecoms Package. Although the European Parliament is supposed to represent the interests and rights of the users, it seems it is trying to make compromises in agreeing upon the limitations of the users’ rights pushed by the UK and France in the Council.
One of the most controversial issues is that of the three-strikes strongly and continuously pushed by France in the EU Council . Although most of the dispositions introducing the graduate response system were rejected in first reading of the Telecom Package, there are still some alarming ones persisting. France is trying hard to get rid of Amendment 138 which seeks to protect users’ rights against the three-strikes sanctions and which, until now, has stopped the EU from applying the three-strikes policy. Also, some new amendments reintroduce the notion of lawful content, which will impose the obligation on ISPs to monitor content going through their networks.
The UK government is pushing for the “wikipedia amendments” (so-called because one of them has been created by cutting and pasting a text out of the wikipedia) in order to allow ISPs to make limited content offers. The UK amendments eliminate the text that gives users rights to access and distribute content, services and applications, replacing it with a text that says “there should be transparency of conditions under which services are provided, including information on the conditions to and/or use of applications and services, and of any traffic management policies .”
“In a context where markets like mobile telecommunication or entertainment industries, merging with telecommunication operators, are controlled by oligopolies, relying on the only information of the consumer leaves the consumer without any choice. Competition law would be the only remedy, and they proved to be totally inefficient against Microsoft or mobile operators cartels. Therefore, it is essential to define a positive guarantee of access to services without discrimination,” stated Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.
Also a very dangerous amendment to the ePrivacy directive is introduced by the UK, allowing the telecommunications industry to collect a potentially unlimited amount of users’ sensitive and confidential communications data including telephone and e-mail contacts, geographic position of mobile phones and websites visited on the Internet.
As a result of the amendments pushed by the AT&T industry, network discrimination practices could be included by the use of Traffic Management Systems, leading to a discriminative way in which users can access content, services and applications, therefore giving complete control of the network to the operators who will be able to decide who and what can access. The pretext for this movement is the necessity of preventing a collapse of the network due to congestion and of a diversified range of offers by the operators. “Such practices would discourage investment in network capacity as well as competition and innovation, and could pose serious threats to freedom of speech” states La Quadrature du Net which has published an analysis of the tabled amendments and recommendations for the votes to be taken by ITRE/IMCO committee.
La Quadrature du Net believes the time left before the vote in the ITRE/IMCO committee must be used to urge MEPs from IMCO and ITRE to protect the citizens’ freedoms by voting against all amendments allowing net discrimination, three strikes schemes and privacy breaches. “The second reading on the Telecoms Package means a second round of intense lobbying, where corporate interests try to go back on citizen’s basic freedom in order to gain more control over the network. However, the European Parliament has a unique chance of showing citizens its commitment into protecting freedom and equity, since it is only 3 months until the European elections, in June” states the group.
BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation, also issued a press release on 18 March appealing for the net neutrality of the Internet. “Over the coming days, the European Parliament, Commission and the Council are holding informal trialogue discussions on the third telecom package. We urge them to keep the principle of “net neutrality” in the final text, ensuring that consumers will still have access to an open Internet. Consumers should be able to choose their own content, application and services online – this right needs to be enforced by national telecom regulators”.
The next key dates after the vote by ITRE/IMCO committee are 15 April 2009, the deadline for plenary amendments, and 22 April 2009 – the date estimated for the EP plenary vote.
Telecoms Package 2nd Reading ITRE IMCO Amendments
UK government pushes for discriminated Internet (7.03.2009)
EU citizens: Save Internet from being turned into a TV! (22.03.2009)
How the EU is bargaining away the Internet (23.03.2009)
Unblock the Internet for consumers: BEUC’s fight for net neutrality
EDRI-gram: Open letter to the European Parliament – Telecom Package