EU regulatory body Berec published guidelines for how national regulators should interpret rules on net neutrality, including zero-rating.
European regulators and other interested parties, including operators and net neutrality campaigners, have until 18 July to offer feedback on the proposed guidelines to Berec, a body whose role is to represent and liaise with watchdogs.
National regulators should, in Brussels speak, take “utmost account” of its proposals, said Berec.
The net neutrality rules were adopted in 2015 by the European Council and Parliament.
What’s within the jurisdiction of the regulation, according to Berec, are internet access services and so-called specialised services. Examples of the latter include VoLTE and live IPTV broadcasting.
Outside the regulation’s scope is activity on private networks, which includes Wi-Fi and corporate networks. And services which are limited by the nature of the terminal involved, for example e-book readers and M2M devices, as well as IP interconnection services, are also excluded.
A key issue is zero rating, and how regulators should interpret it in light of last year’s regulation. In a presentation, Wilhelm Eschweiler, the chair of Berec, said zero rating is not prohibited per se. He pointed out there are many types of zero rating.
Some services should be prohibited, he said, giving the example of where all applications, except the zero-rated one, are blocked when a data cap is reached.
However, other scenarios are less clear cut and regulators will need to consider them on a case-by-case basis.
The guidelines also set out the criteria that regulators should consider when reaching their view.
There are six criteria, starting with whether the general aims of regulation have been circumvented. Regulators must also consider the size of ISP or content provider involved in the alleged offence, and how the rights of consumers and business have been impacted.
Also important is whether another content provider has been wronged. The scale of the practice and availability of alternative offers should also be considered, and any effects on freedom of expression and media pluralism.
Interested parties took to Twitter to fire questions at Eschweiler, including whether startups could rely on a fast remedy where discrimination occurs, and what happens to those questions where zero rating is currently banned outright (Netherlands and Slovenia), as well as caution being expressed about rules exceeding the intent of the original regulation.
The guidance also considers traffic management, whereby ISPs should treat all traffic equally, says Berec. The regulation does allow what it terms “reasonable traffic management” which differentiates between categories of traffic.
An ISP can categorise traffic by, for instance, application layer protocol or generic application type but only if this is linked objectively to different technical quality of service requirements. Applications with equivalent requirements must be handled in the same category. And the justification given is relevant to the category of traffic in question.
Regulators must ensure ISPs do not monitor specific content.
There are exceptions to this rule, according to Berec, justified by compliance with other laws, preservation of integrity and security and congestion management measures.