Today, 28 member states of the European Union presented a joint proposal on the Telecoms Single Market — legislation that will determine whether Net Neutrality will become a reality throughout Europe. The proposal officially triggered the start of joint negotiations between the EU Commission, the EU Parliament, and the Council of the EU to produce a final text.
After one year of negotiations, a second element of the telecoms regulation was also agreed by the EU Council: arbitrary, ad hoc law enforcement by internet companies. The Council has decided that this is something that internet companies may do, may not do and may do (Council text, pdf).
As negotiations on the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) come close to an end, the Parliament may break its promise to deliver net neutrality. Crucial to the net neutrality developments will be the next Council meeting of Telecommunications ministers on June 12th.
For the past two months the EU Commission, the EU Parliament, and the Council of the EU have gathered almost every week to try to strike a deal on the Telecoms Single Market regulation. What began as an omnibus draft regulation has been whittled down to two proposals: one to end data roaming in the EU — which would make make mobile connectivity much cheaper across the continent — and one to enshrine net neutrality, the principle according to which all data should be treated equally, not discriminating among users, websites, or services.
EU leaders discussed a European Commission plan for a digital single market at the second day of their summit on Friday (26 June), but there are already signs that member states prefer to pick and choose from the list of initiatives which was supposed to be a package deal.
If national governments do end up stripping down the strategy, presented by commissioners Andrus Ansip and Guenther Oettinger last month, it will be a repetition of what happened to the previous commission's digital action plan.
Despite the fast pace of the digital developments, the member states have not been able to match that pace when it comes to finding agreement with the European Parliament on a previous commission plan called Connected Continent, also known as the Telecoms Single Market package. The plan was introduced by then digital commissioner Neelie Kroes in September 2013. It aimed to introduce EU-wide rules for telecoms operators, increase consumer rights, and coordinate the assignment of radio spectrum at an EU level.