EU digital veep: If you like America's radical idea of net neutrality, you're in luck, Europe

And if you don't, just download some music and be happy

Europe’s digi-chief has spoken out about net neutrality rules emerging from America, and mobile networks favoring particular websites over others.

Speaking at an event in Brussels this week, Digital Vice President of the Commission Andrus Ansip said he sees no difference between the EU and the FCC in the US in their approach to net neutrality. And the US is quite radical in this area.

More surprisingly, Ansip said he “cannot see any big differences” between the European Parliament, the Commission and the council of national ministers on net neutrality.

The three bodies have just begun negotiations on a raft of new telecommunications laws, but earlier this month the council redefined “specialised services” in a way that angered some MEPs.

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake said the proposals were “disappointing to the point of insulting”. “The council wording is vague and this is a problem. Ambiguity and uncertainty create loopholes. We need clear principles and definitions. These are not in the council text, and I don’t think that’s an accident. The council will face a huge fight to get this wording approved,” warned Schaake.

But Ansip seemed much more amenable to the idea. “It is difficult to define specialised services, because we don’t know what services we will have in five years or in 10 years, but we have to try. Although we are trying to define specialised services, but it is clear that within those rules the internet has to stay open - no blocking, no throttling.”

The digi-veep also said he could live with some so-called zero-rated services - the practice whereby mobile operators do not charge for specified volumes of data from specific apps or used through specific services. For example, a mobile network could say music streamed from Spotify doesn't count against a subscriber's monthly download limit – a special offer that's at odds with the principles of net neutrality.

“This is not a black and white issue. In some EU member states zero rating is already prohibited and now the question is how we continue at EU level. Until there is a level playing field for everybody, I can live with some services of zero rating,” he said.

The proposed EU telecoms law does not deal specifically with zero-rating, something Antonios Drossos, managing partner of management consultants Rewheel, said was a huge mistake. Activists say that zero-rating segments the market in the same way as geo-blocking, something Mr Ansip has said he wants to stamp out. ®

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