Dutch net neutrality to become reality after Senate approves law

The Netherlands is the second country in the world to adopt a law enforcing net neutrality

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  Networking

The Netherlands is the first country in Europe to adopt a net neutrality law, and the second country in the world, after Chile. The Dutch Senate adopted the net neutrality provisions in a new Telecom Law approved on Tuesday evening.

The changes to the law were approved unanimously, according to the Senate website. The net neutrality law will ensure that access to the Internet is neutral and it is forbidden to filter the Internet.

The law aims to prevent telecom providers from blocking or throttling services such as Skype or WhatsApp, an Internet SMS service. Internet providers will also be prohibited from making prices for their Internet services dependent on the services used by the subscriber. ISPs may throttle traffic to prevent congestion or protect the network -- but only if they treat all traffic of the same type equally -- and they may not block traffic unless it is necessary in order to protect the integrity and security of the network or users' terminals.

There is one notable exception which allows Internet users to request an ISP to filter their Internet traffic by blocking certain services and applications based on ideological grounds, according to the approved changes in the law.

The religious exception clause was added to the proposed law last year when the Dutch Labor Party accidentally voted in favor of an amendment proposed by the Reformed Political Party (SGP), said Senator Han Noten of the Labor Party (PvdA).

Although the clause is intended to allow filtering at the request of the customer, many Dutch politicians see it as opening the door to Internet censorship, and want to see it removed.

After the voting mishap in the parliament it was decided that the mistake would be repaired by adding a new amendment that aims to nullify the religious exception clause to another, totally unrelated law concerning traffic regulation, Noten said. The Senate is set to vote on the traffic law and thus on the so-called "repair amendment" on May 15. Noten expects the traffic law to pass, and thus the filtering exception not to become law.

The Christian Union (CU) wants to maintain a religious filtering exception, though, and filed a motion in the Senate on Tuesday, asking the government to explore the possibilities for religious and ideological Internet filtering by providers on explicit request of the subscriber. The Senate will vote on this motion on May 15.

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