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One of Jisc’s activities is to monitor and, where possible, influence regulatory developments that affect us and our customer universities, colleges and schools as operators of large computer networks. Since Janet and its customer networks are classified by Ofcom as private networks, postings here are likely to concentrate on the regulation of those networks. Postings here are, to the best of our knowledge, accurate on the date they are made, but may well become out of date or unreliable at unpredictable times thereafter. Before taking action that may have legal consequences, you should talk to your own lawyers. NEW: To help navigate the many posts on the General Data Protection Regulation, I've classified them as most relevant to developing a GDPR compliance process, GDPR's effect on specific topics, or how the GDPR is being developed. Or you can just use my free GDPR project plan.

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Dutch law requires network neutrality

Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 15:24

According to the Dutch digital rights organisation, Bits of Freedom, the Netherlands has just passed a new Network Neutrality law. Their unofficial translation into English suggests that Public Electronic Communications Service Providers will only be permitted to throttle or block traffic on their networks if this is necessary:

a. to minimize the effects of congestion, whereby equal types of traffic should be treated equally; [or]

b. to preserve the integrity and security of the network and service of the provider in question or the terminal of the enduser; [or]

c. to restrict the transmission to an enduser of unsolicited communication as refered to in Article 11.7, first paragraph, provided that the enduser has given its prior consent; [or]

d. to give effect to a legislative provision or court order.”

Items B and D on that list seem relatively uncontroversial, but it seems to me possible that C and A may prohibit desirable services. C appears to allow an ISP to offer a spam-blocking service to users, but to prohibit offering services (either opt-in or opt-out) that filter any other kinds of unwanted material. The effect of A seems to depend on what is meant by “equal types of traffic should be treated equally”. If it means that a network operator can only apply controls at the level of an IP address or range then it seems to prohibit treating time-critical services (such as audio and video) differently from other things like e-mail; but if that sort of discrimination in favour of real-time services (which may be necessary to deliver acceptable performance even on uncongested networks) is permitted then it may also allow the discrimination against peer-to-peer and VoIP traffic that was recently identified by European regulators.

It will be interesting to see how those issues are resolved, particularly as the Netherlands appears to be the first country in the world to try this approach. I understand that the Dutch telecoms regulator has indicated that ISPs will be given an opportunity to develop practical implementations before the law is enforced.