The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed fines on Dutch telecom companies KPN (EUR 250,000) and Vodafone (EUR 200,000) for violation of the regulations regarding net neutrality. In the Netherlands, all providers are required to guarantee net neutrality. Net neutrality means that internet providers are not allowed to block access to specific content or applications (apps). In addition to the prohibition of blocking, internet providers cannot charge different tariffs for the use of online services and applications. All of these regulations help create an open Internet. Having an open Internet is important in order to be able to distribute information freely, and to have more choice online.
With regard to its free Wi-Fi hotspots, KPN blocked various services including several internet calling services. As a result, consumers were unable to use these services. Internet providers are prohibited from deciding what their customers can and cannot do online.
Vodafone offered plans with which customers were able to watch pay-tv channel HBO using an app without charging these customers the data used for watching HBO. That way, Vodafone influenced its customers’ online behavior, which is not allowed either. Regulations require internet providers not to influence consumer behavior through blockades or tariffs.
Henk Don, Member of the Board of ACM, adds: “Internet providers are not allowed to decide for consumers what they can do on the Internet, and they are not allowed to influence their behavior either. All data must be transmitted under the same conditions. That is the idea behind net neutrality, and that is what we are enforcing in these cases. ACM thus prevents consumers from having less freedom of choice online.”