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Netherlands first country in Europe with net neutrality

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On 8 May 2012 The Netherlands adopted crucial legislation to safeguard an open and secure internet in The Netherlands. It is the first country in Europe to implement net neutrality in the law. In addition, it adopted provisions protecting users against disconnection and wiretapping by providers. Digital rights movement Bits of Freedom calls upon other countries to follow the Dutch example.

The net neutrality law prohibits internet providers from interfering with the traffic of their users. The law allows for traffic management in case of congestion and for network security, as long as these measures serve the interests of the internet user. A technical error in the law might still be corrected in a vote on 15 May.

In addition, the law includes an anti-wiretapping provision, restricting internetproviders from using invasive wiretapping technologies, such as deep packet inspection (DPI). They may only do so under limited circumstances, or with explicit consent of the user, which the user may withdraw at any time. The use of DPI gained much attention when KPN admitted that it analysed the traffic of its users to gather information on the use of certain apps. The law allows for wiretapping with a warrant.

Moreover, the law includes a provision ensuring that internet providers can only disconnect their users in a very limited set of circumstances. Internet access is very important for functioning in an information society, and providers currently could on the basis of their terms and conditions disconnect their users for numerous reasons. The provision allows for the disconnection in the case of fraud or when a user doesn’t pay his bills.

Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital rights movement which campaigned for these provisions, applauds the new law. It considers this a historical moment for internet freedom in The Netherlands and calls on other countries to follow the Dutch example.

The provisions are part of the implementation of the European telecommunications rules. A translation of the provisions can be found here, but it does not include the technical error in the law which might be corrected on the 15th.

Update (05-15-2012): the Senate has just passed a law that corrects the technical error in the net neutrality law.

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