In Europe, internet providers must treat internet traffic equally. The enforcement of European net neutrality rules calls for constant attention, and, if necessary, for action by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM). This is shown in the Annual Report on Net Neutrality that ACM published today.
The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has underscored how important broadband access is to society. Thanks to the Internet, many activities can be done from home, and the Internet is also an important source of information and entertainment. Since the start of the outbreak, ACM, together with other telecom regulators across Europe, has been keeping a close watch on how the increase of broadband usage, for example, as a result of working from home, affects the strain on the capacity of telecom networks. With that information, ACM will be able to respond quickly, if telecom operators experience any problems with the strain on their networks, and need to take measures.
ACM is in close contact with telecom operators about the implications of the increased broadband data usage, and about the measures that can be taken. So far, the increased strain on the networks has not led to any major problems. At the height of the crisis, ACM each week, with the help of the Dutch telecom operators, submitted input for the data-usage reports of BEREC, which is the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.
In addition to the consequences of the Coronavirus outbreak, other topics related to net neutrality have also demanded ACM’s attention:
At the European level, ACM last year actively helped draft a revised version of the BEREC Open Internet Guidelines. These guidelines ensure that, in practice, telecom regulators enforce net neutrality rules in a consistent manner. In that revision process, ACM built on the experience gained in its assessments of broadband access services on the Dutch market.
Follow-up study into the market for IP interconnection
In order to be able to send content from one network to another (and back again), network owners make arrangements regarding connections (IP interconnection). These network owners can be broadband access providers, but can also be content suppliers or specialized providers of connections. Making arrangements is allowed, but these arrangements cannot create any unnecessary restrictions for users. In 2015, ACM carried out a study into such arrangements. In 2020, ACM will once again take stock of the market for IP interconnection.
Measurement tool of internet speeds
BEREC developed software for a measurement tool for internet speeds. ACM will make this measurement tool suitable for the Dutch market. With this system, consumers are able to measure their internet speeds themselves. This measurement system is expected to become available for Dutch consumers sometime in 2021. People will then be able to check whether they actually get the download speeds that they have paid for.
ACM and net neutrality
In Europe, internet providers must treat internet traffic in a non-discriminatory manner, so that the Internet is able to grow and evolve freely and independently. That means, for example, that they are not allowed to block or unnecessarily restrict traffic. ACM keeps an eye on this. If consumers file any complaints, ACM may launch an investigation. If telecom companies have any doubts about how new technologies and new services relate to the net neutrality rules, they can contact ACM.