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Netherlands passes net neutrality law


Plans to charge for traffic through WhatsApp have prompted a net neutrality law

The Netherlands is set to become the first European country to guarantee net neutrality, meaning it will effectively legislate against internet telcos and internet service providers who want to discriminate by charging more for using particular applications or services.

The law won almost unanimous support, despite opposition from providers, who argued revenue was dropping due to services that circumvent SMS. KPN, for example, had announced plans to charge extra for WhatsApp and Skype, using deep packet inspection to classify traffic by app.

An amendment from the VVD party that would enable carriers to charge extra for services was also dropped, following criticism sparked by the plans of KPN and other providers.

Alex de Joode, Security Officer at Netherlands-based hosting provider LeaseWeb, thinks the move will be beneficial to most businesses. “[It] will encourage smaller companies to continue to develop new applications, services and content without fear that they will be discriminated against by telcos with their own competing products,” he said.

This, he added, was a “win-win for the public and the broader internet community” and would enable hosting companies to continue offering “economical hosting and content services to customers without additional fees or costs, which ISPs and telcos have threatened to impose”.

Although telcos in The Netherlands will no longer benefit from what de Joode refers to as the “additional ‘tax’ they had wanted to impose”, he reckons the law could even benefit them, through wider access and the general growth of the internet and online services; by comparison, the telcos' plans would have “resulted in less traffic and higher costs to consumers”.

Without net neutrality, he argued that there was a risk of customers paying twice, “once for the service from an ISP or telco—and also an additional ‘tax’ imposed by the telco on the host provider so subscribers could access the content”.