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Last week the EU rejected further amendments to strengthen the new laws that will essentially protect the concept of net neutrality. Critics argue this leaves the legislation weak and means the Internet could still be susceptible to becoming ‘two tiered’ or having ‘fast lanes’.

The amendments were attempting to restrict ‘overly broad language’ which critics argued ISPs could interpret to allow ‘fast lanes’ and ‘two tiered’ approaches to ensure a certain level of quality for premium services such as IPTV, but they were rejected by a huge majority in the vote. Instead the EU argues that this will be managed by regulators, although at this stage no further details were provided regarding potential punishments for contradiction of the rules.

This is a concern we raised in our recent article “Net neutrality in Europe: Enshrined in law or open to abuse?” and it’s disappointing at this stage to see the EU didn’t go further to protect net neutrality when given the chance. However, looking on the positive side, this is the first time net neutrality has ever been afforded any form of legal protection, so at least it’s a start! If the regulator approach doesn’t work as effectively as they hope, let’s hope the process will be adequately reviewed and updated as necessary. We will have to wait and see.

Impact on parental controls

An interesting point to emerge from this latest announcement though is the potential impact on ISPs’ parental controls. The UK Government has already commented that they may need to introduce a new domestic law that enables ISPs to continue to use their parental control systems, to block adult pornography for example. However, at this stage this seems to be somewhat of an overreaction as the new laws clearly state an exception that allows the use of parental controls albeit with ‘prior consent of the end user and with the ability to withdraw that consent at any time.’

So, surely all the ISPs that currently offer such services really need to do is tweak the existing systems to ensure consent is not presumed at any time and provide a facility to turn the controls on/off as and when consent is given or withdrawn. Why does the Government feel it needs a new law? ISPs will have until the end of 2016 to implement any changes that are needed as the laws don’t take effect until then.

It’s interesting that the Government are so quick to respond to protect parental controls even though they are widely recognised amongst the industry as being quite ineffective due to the ability to circumvent them relatively easily and the highly publicised errors that have happened previously with incorrect websites being blocked.

It’s a shame they aren’t so quick to react on more pressing matters!

Have your say!

Do you think the new EU legal protection will ensure a neutral Internet or do you think two tier is inevitable in the end? Do you think the new laws go far enough or should the amendments have been implemented? Do you agree the Government are overreacting regarding parental controls or do you think a new domestic law will be required? Let us know your opinions by leaving us a comment below.

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