URGENT: The EU is risking the open internet – take action now

Save the Internet

If you know what this is about and want to take action – scroll down to the end.

One of the greatest accomplishments of the web has been permissionless innovation – anyone can build & distribute services and products over the web; consumers and companies are free to choose and pay for whatever web services and products they prefer.

That’s what net neutrality is about; that’s why it matters so much. It matters even more to European startups (and SMEs) because it allows the smaller entrepreneurial community here to punch above its weight – it allows companies in smaller and fragmented markets to scale quicker, to compete more effectively anywhere.

But the EU is about to adopt net neutrality rules that could put European startups and SMEs at a significant disadvantage to their US peers. To make matters worse – the EU has been claiming that the proposed rules on net neutrality are more pro net-neutrality than in the US (where net neutrality rules are strong; but not without the US tech community rallying the troops) – this is simply untrue; but has led to a situation where already this Tuesday (27th) the EU could sleep walk in to approving potentially detrimental net neutrality rules.

If you want a full run down of the current situation, problems & solutions: I strongly recommend you read Stanford Professor Barbara van Schewick piece “Europe Is About to Adopt Bad Net Neutrality Rules. Here’s How to Fix Them

If you don’t have time to read all of it – here are the key problems with the current EU proposal that is set to be adopted in a few days (taken from Barbara’s post):

The proposal allows ISPs to create fast lanes for companies that pay through the specialized services exception. “Fast Lanes” on the Internet harm innovation, free expression, and democratic discourse in Europe.

The proposal generally allows zero-rating (the practice of not counting certain applications against users’ monthly bandwidth caps. Like fast lanes or other technical discrimination, zero-rating allows ISPs to discriminate against content that users want to see) and gives regulators very limited ability to police it, leaving users and companies without protection against all but the most egregious cases. Zero-rating is harmful discrimination.

The proposal allows ISPs to define classes and speed up or slow down traffic in those classes, even if there is no congestion. This allows ISPs to distort competition, stifles innovation, harms users, and hurts providers who encrypt traffic by putting all encrypted traffic in the slow lane. The proposal allows ISPs to engage in class-based discrimination.

The proposal allows ISPs to start managing congestion in the case of impending congestion. That means that they can slow down traffic anytime, not just during times of actual congestion.

Essentially it means not having a level playing field for EU startups and SMEs. It means they are at a significant disadvantage to large incumbents (incl. large US technology companies) who can pay their way in to a class driven internet. It also means European consumers will have less freedom in how they want to use the web. Both aspects are extremely bothersome and the EU must make amendments to it’s current proposed net neutrality rules.

So here are two things you can do to help:

  1. Send this tweet out right now: “EU net neutrality rules will significantly harm EU startups & SMEs. Take urgent action @EP_President @GOettingerEU http://goo.gl/WKriaa”
  2. Go to savetheinternet.eu and contact an EU representative directly
  3. A lot of you will have contacts to EU politicians, influencers etc – please reach out to them

The EU, more than anyone else, needs and open and free web. The tech community here should be its most prominent advocate.