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The Dutch have passed a law prohibiting internet providers from slowing down traffic unless it's to ease congestion, preserve security or block spam.

The Netherlands thus becomes the first European country to legislate a rulebook for what network operators can or can't do - and only the second country in the world to do so.

The law also bans advertisers from dropping cookies on PCs without the user's consent.

Operators will also be forbidden from charging based on access to services and applications, outlawing offerings such as an old-skool shell account, or low latency ISP for gamers.

It's all expected to hit mobile operators hard: Vodafone permits Skype but charges a fee to use it on smartphones, while T-Mobile blocks Skype and VoIP apps.

It's hard to see it lasting unmodified. But here we go: have a look for yourself. Here's a translation, courtesy of Bits of Freedom, of Article 7.4a of the new Dutch Telecommunications Act

1. Providers of public electronic communication networks which deliver internet access services and providers of internet access services do not hinder or slow down applications and services on the internet, unless and to the extent that the measure in question with which applications or services are being hindered or slowed down is necessary:

a. to minimise the effects of congestion, whereby equal types of traffic should be treated equally;

b. to preserve the integrity and security of the network and service of the provider in question or the terminal of the enduser;

c. to restrict the transmission to an enduser of unsolicited communication as referred to in Article 11.7, first paragraph, provided that the enduser has given its prior consent;

d. to give effect to a legislative provision or court order.

2. If an infraction on the integrity or security of the network or the service or the terminal of an enduser, referred to in the first paragraph sub b, is being caused by traffic coming from the terminal of an enduser, the provider, prior to the taking of the measure which hinders or slows down the traffic, notifies the enduser in question, in order to allow the enduser to terminate the infraction. Where this, as a result of the required urgency, is not possible prior to the taking of the measure, the provider provides a notification of the measure as soon as possible. Where this concerns an enduser of a different provider, the first sentence does not apply.

3. Providers of internet access services do not make the price of the rates for internet access services dependent on the services and applications which are offered or used via these services.

4. Further regulations with regard to the provisions in the first to the third paragraph may be provided by way of an administrative order. A draft order provided under this paragraph will not be adopted before it is submitted to both chambers of the Parliament.

5. In order to prevent the degradation of service and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over public electronic communication networks, minimum requirements regarding the quality of service of public electronic communication services may be imposed on undertakings providing public communications ­networks.

It's amazing to think the internet has flourished for so long, 28 years, without a single piece of technical legislation on how packets should travel. But it clearly must be on its last legs, for politicians to want to get involved. ®

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