Free internet laid down in Telecommunications Act

The Telecommunications Act will be amended to ensure free access to the Internet and prevent new services like WhatsApp and Skype from being blocked. On Wednesday 22 June 2011 the House of Representatives approved Minister’s Verhagen’s legislative proposal and amendment of the Act to make this possible. The principle of Internet neutrality is now laid down in law. Blocking the new internet services would inhibit progress.

"Blocking such new services or charging consumers for internet access would inhibit progress. This is bad for the economy, which is why we are going to legislate for it with the House. We want to ensure open and free access to the Internet. The public and mobile operators can trust us to preserve a free and open Internet and not to endanger specific Internet services," said Verhagen in a reaction after the vote. This planned amendment makes the Netherlands one of the first countries in the world to guarantee free access under the law.

Paying for Skype and Whatsapp

Some providers of mobile internet services had announced they intended to charge consumers a fee for the use of specific services, because they result in a drop in the revenue from telephone and text messaging services. Minister Verhagen is not against charging for the volume or speed of internet data traffic but he believes, and the Government with him, that charging for the use of competing services like Skype or WhatsApp is going too far.

Cookies

To protect online privacy the legislative proposal also seeks to better inform consumers when cookies are sent to their browsers. The House has tightened protection by giving consumers the option to choose whether or not cookies can be stored on their computers, although Minister Verhagen did not believe this was necessary. It will disadvantage Dutch companies compared to the rest of the EU.

Consumer data

The legislative proposal also requires providers to give immediate notification if personal data are leaked into the public domain. It also provides for easier internet access for people with a disability, to enable them to communicate with government services and companies. The legislative proposal will now go to the Senate to be discussed.