“For the First Time, Net Neutrality will Apply”

3 Questions to Marc Tarabella, Belgian MEP from the Socialists & Democrats Group

The European Parliament’s recent adoption of the Telecoms Single Market legislation has been heralded as a triumph: an end to roaming charges and the introduction of measures to guarantee net neutrality. But to what extent is this true? Per Strömback, Editor of Netopia, got to the heart of the issue by putting three questions to Marc Tarabella, Belgian MEP from the Socialists & Democrats Group.

Per Strömback: Can the passing of this legislation be seen as success for the European Parliament?

Marc Tarabella: It was always clear that roaming charges had to be done away with. We’ve been pushing since 2011 to stop operators from charging users for receiving e-mails, text messages or phone calls when abroad. Now we’ve secured both a reduction in phone bills with the abolition of roaming charges from 15 June 2017 but also introduced European legislation on net neutrality.

PS: What is the significance of these new rules on net neutrality?

MT: For the first time in history, the principle of net neutrality will apply in all 28 members states of the EU, forcing internet providers across Europe to treat all internet traffic equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, regardless of the internet provider or end user and irrespective of the content, applications or services accessed.

We have largely succeeded in fending off the attempts of telecom operators’, sometimes backed by certain governments in the Council of Ministers, to introduce a class-based, two-tier internet. That said, we would have liked more clarity on the subject of zero rating, specialist services and flow management.

PS: What are the next steps towards implementation?

MT: Once validated and introduced into national law, it will be up to national governments to enforce the regulation. It’s vital that they remain faithful to the essence of the text that we have fought so hard to preserve throughout the long legislative process. It’s about the protection of consumer rights, but also respecting competition rules so that the net can continue to be a hotbed of innovation and a home for freedom of expression and information online. That’s why it is so important that we remain vigilant and ensure that European governments, who have too often been in bed with the telecom operators, are proactive in enforcing this important new legislation.