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ICT

Date:16/06/11

Netherlands first to regulate on net neutrality

The Netherlands is likely to become the first European member state to successfully pass legislation that will ensure its internet remains neutral. The legislation is expected to be signed off by the Dutch government next week, following a vote.
Net neutrality, which would see every internet packet treated equally, has been a hot topic for regulators and ISPs in recent months, but to date other EU countries have appeared more reticent to regulate.
But will this move by the Dutch government provoke other countries into creating their own legislation?
It might, but the Netherlands faces a unique set of circumstances that has partially paved the way for this move.
First, the country has an active internet rights organisation that has been good at lobbying for and promoting the issue.
In addition, a few weeks ago, KPN, the Dutch incumbent telecoms company, and Vodafone, were found to be using Deep Packet Inspection techniques to filter and kill off VoIP traffic
Alex de Joode, security officer at LeaseWeb, the leading Netherlands-based hosting provider, said there was widespread outrage as a result.
"The whole country was amazed by this and, consequently, the issue has been framed in such a way that net neutrality was the only acceptable solution," he said.
De Joode does, however, believe that countries which are highly "internet-ready" will be the first to follow suit, and he points to the UK as an example.
"In the Netherlands 80 per cent of the population have internet at home – usage is very high. It is going to be countries such as this where you will see similar regulation," said de Joode.
"The big telcos are worried that instead of having a managed services business involving voice, TV, broadcasting and SMS, they are just going to become pipes to the internet," added de Joode.
"Where telcos feel a similar pressure is where you will see regulation being brought in. You will probably see this on other highly internet-ready environments, such as the UK and Scandinavia."
However, Matthew Howett, analyst at Ovum, disagrees and suggests that other EU countries will wait to assess the outcome of this type of legislation. "The Netherlands is going out on a limb here. The majority of other legislators in Europe have taken a let's wait and see approach," said Howett.



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