The Netherlands Becomes First Net Neutrality Country

Dutch people have reason to celebrate this week, following the passing of a new law that guarantees net neutrality in the Netherlands, making the country the first in Europe to safeguard an open and secure internet.

The law was created in June 2010 and led to parliament passing a motion that stopped mobile operations from blocking VOIP calls on their network. The original bill directed towards mobile carriers passed the Dutch Senate of the States General on 8 May 2012.

This revised law guarantees free access to internet and prohibits the blocking of access to services such as WhatsApp, Viper and Skype. Net neutrality is thus guaranteed under Dutch law.

In addition, it adopted provisions protecting users against disconnection and wiretapping by providers.

The net neutrality law prohibits internet providers from interfering with the traffic of their users. The law allows for traffic management in case of congestion and for network security, as long as these measures serve the interests of the internet user. A technical error in the law might still be corrected in a vote on 15 May.

The Netherlands is one of the first countries in the world to guarantee free access to internet under the law.

The most important points in the Act are:

  • The consumer should be informed if files like “cookies” are put on their computer. The user must be able to give permission for this. The House of Representatives tightened this provision when amending the law.
  • If customer details come into the public domain providers must inform their customers as quickly as possible.
  • An image and text mediation service will be provided to help disabled users communicate more easily with businesses and government bodies.

The use of frequencies is essential for wireless communication. One of the most important changes to the Act is the implementation of new frequency policy with flexibility as its key. This new, more flexible policy will speed up procedures and rules, simplify them and abolish those that are superfluous. This will make it easier to meet the speedily changing circumstances and technological developments on the electronic communication market.

Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital rights movement which campaigned for these provisions, applauds the new law. It considers this a historical moment for internet freedom in The Netherlands and calls on other countries to follow the Dutch example.

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