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ACM: COVID-19 pandemic does not cause problems for open internet

In Europe, internet providers must treat internet traffic in a non-discriminatory manner, enabling the Internet to grow and evolve freely and independently. That means, for example, that they are not allowed to block or unnecessarily restrict traffic. This is called net neutrality, and has been laid down in the Open Internet Regulation. The enforcement of that regulation requires constant attention, and, where necessary, taking action. These are some of the findings in the Annual Report on Net Neutrality that the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) published today.

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has emphasized the importance of open internet to society. Over the internet, many activities (including work-related activities) and personal interactions can easily be conducted from home. Internet is also an important source of information and entertainment. Since the start of the pandemic, ACM, together with other European regulators, has been monitoring the effects of the increase in broadband usage, for example as a result of working from home, on the pressure on the telecom networks. ACM did not find that the pandemic and the resulting increase in the pressure on the networks (as people were working from home) have led to internet providers in the Netherlands having to take traffic management measures during this period. The Dutch networks have been found to be sufficiently robust, and also capable of coping with the increase in data traffic as a result of the pandemic.

Specialized services

The roll-out of 5G makes it easier for internet providers not only to offer specialized services, but also services with different Quality-of-Service levels. Think of company-specific applications, but also services for first responders. Over the past year, ACM has had conversations with different internet providers to find out whether these services are offered, and if so, whether they comply with the Open Internet Regulation. This assessment has revealed that this type of service is not yet widely offered in the Netherlands, and that the internet providers are aware of the rules. ACM will continue to stay in contact with internet providers to ensure that the implementation of these services is not in violation of the Open Internet Regulation.

ACM and net neutrality

One key element of ACM’s activities with regard to net neutrality is entering into a dialog with market participants about the application of the Open Internet Regulation to their services. ACM will continue to do so next year. Innovative services or certain situations can raise questions among internet providers about the interpretation of the Regulation. That is why ACM is always ready to answer any questions about net neutrality in the context of new trends and developments in the telecom sector.