Skype: Dutch House says mobile carriers can't limit its use
Skype users win victory as Dutch House of Representatives passes law that mobile carriers can't block or charge extra for Skype and other alternatives. Senate vote seen as formality.
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In a statement, KPN said it "regrets that parliament didn't take more time for this legislation," adding it is now considering other options to recoup lost revenues.Skip to next paragraph
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Vodafone said the bill would "lead to a large increase in prices for mobile Internet for a large group of consumers" by blocking the company from offering varying prices for varying services.
The Dutch bill comes at a crucial time, as most European countries are debating how to enact EU Commission rules on net neutrality.
The EU has ordered its members to enact less stringent laws by May 2011 requiring providers to be transparent about their policies, but most have yet to do so.
The EU position is that it makes sense to give telecoms leeway to "shape" network traffic, for instance by giving preference to people who want quality guarantees on streaming video — at a higher price. The EU guidelines allow telecoms to charge extra for some services, give preference to their own services, or even block rivals entirely, as long as they are open about what they are doing and consumers can easily switch providers.
This is close to current U.S. practice, which is also under debate.
T-Mobile has so far blocked Skype in Germany. In Britain, Vodafone charges extra for the service. Other practices, such as quietly degrading the quality of some applications, are suspected but difficult to prove.
In April, the EU's commissioner for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes lashed out at telecoms' lack of transparency and ordered an investigation.
"Mark my words," Kroes said. "If measures to enhance competition are not enough to bring Internet providers to offer real consumer choice, I'm ready to prohibit the blocking of lawful services or applications."
However, she has said the Dutch legislation is "premature."
The telecommunications industry has warned that strict net neutrality laws may lead to a situation where content from Facebook, Netflix, Google and others clog bandwidth and telecoms are unable to fund expansion. Some say the content companies should be forced to pay for bandwidth or share their revenues with the telecoms.
"Internet search engines use our network without paying anything at all, which is good for them but bad for us." Spain's Telefonica CEO Cesar Alierta complained at a conference last year. "It's obvious that this situation must change."