Holland Bans Two Tier Internet With Net Neutrality Law

The Dutch has become the first European nation to enshrine net neutrality as part of their national law

Holland is in the final stages of passing a law that will ban a two-tier Internet and enshrine the concept of net neutrality as part of its national laws.

On Wednesday, the Dutch Parliament passed a bill that stops local mobile operators from blocking or charging extra for the use of VoIP services, such as Skype, on mobile phone networks.

According to the BBC, the bill must now go through the rubber-stamping formality of passing through the Dutch Senate.

European Investigation

The Dutch decision comes after the European Union announced in April the launch of an official investigation of the techniques used by European ISPs to manage network traffic.

Essentially the EU probe is looking to ensure that all European citizens and businesses have the same access to an open and neutral Internet.

Neelie Kroes

“I am determined to ensure that citizens and businesses in the EU can enjoy the benefits of an open and neutral Internet, without hidden restrictions and at the speeds promised by their service providers,” said Neelie Kroes, VP of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, speaking in April.

Kroes will apparently present the findings and publicly name “operators engaging in doubtful practices” at the end of 2011.

Yet the issue of net neutrality is a controversial one, with arguments often raging across many developed countries such as in the United States, the UK and Europe. At the heart of the argument is the concept of whether all Internet traffic should be treated equally, regardless of its type.

Throttling Or Fee Rises?

This is a concept very much endorsed by net neutrality campaigners, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

In March this year he told ISPs that their plans for a two-tier Internet go against the principal of net neutrality. He feels Internet users should have free and open access to all content, and that content providers should also have unrestricted access to customers.

But the ISPs and mobile operators counter this with the argument that it is often necessary to restrict data intensive services at peak times.

For example some ISPs in the UK are known to “throttle” back certain services, such as the BBC iPlayer or even Skype at peak times. ISPs argue that this is necessary to ensure that all their users receive an equal service.

The ISPs and operators essentially argue that they should be allowed to charge heavy bandwidth users such as the BBC and Skype for “fast lane” access to their content. They warn that subscription prices may rise if net neutrality laws are passed.

Open Internet a Government ‘Priority’

In January BT’s wholesale unit launched a two-tier service that allowed content providers to pay for “first class” content delivery. That service – known as Content Connect – uses Cisco’s Content Delivery System to give priority to certain content, regardless of congestion caused by other traffic outside the Content Connect service.

And in November 2010, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey appeared to shun the principle of net neutrality when he said that Internet service providers should be allowed to prioritise traffic from certain content providers.

However, those proposals were met with fierce criticism from political opponents and certain elements of the industry including the BBC.

Vaizey later claimed that an open Internet was his “first and overriding priority.”

Whatever happens in the UK, the Dutch will be the second country in the world to enshrine the net neutrality concept into their national law. In July last year a similar law was passed in the South American country of Chile.