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Netherlands first country in Europe with net neutrality (bof.nl)
310 points by slasaus on May 9, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 60 comments

It's interesting to note that this legislation was prompted because the incumbent telco (KPN) overplayed its hand. They publicly suggested that they would price traffic from WhatsApp higher to offset their loss in SMS revenue. A public outcry ensued, law makers got involved and this is the result.

Democracy doesn't always work, but when it does it's a beautiful thing.

Not sure how long telcos thought they could get away with charging so much for SMS (http://www.nickloper.com/2011/02/how-much-does-a-text-messag...) but now that things have changed it looks as though they thought they had other ways of making incredible profits from message transmission. Ha!

The problem is, the money still has to come from somewhere. When income drops in one area (SMS), and costs do not go down, they'll likely have to increase pricing in another area.

True, these are only my individual observations, but after the legislation the prices for mobile subscriptions seem to have increased. Now almost every subscription has 'unlimited SMS' but the internet bundles are priced higher for what you get than before the regulations.

However, this increase of course would also have been the case without the new laws (as you say, as people move from SMS to Whatsapp, they have to compensate). The only difference is that they now can't differentiate between different uses of the internet, but only on the amount of data you get.

I don't think the net neutrality isn't such a bad thing price/economic wise. I'd rather have this clear system which might mean slightly higher prices for the average consumer than a system in which different prices for different uses of internet make calculating your actual costs more difficult. In my opinion, that would only give more opportunities to telecom providers to screw you over with little details, rules and clauses in their contracts -- something which history has shown they don't shy away from (rounding up every call duration to a full minute etc.).

The issue is that demand to SMS is pretty inflexible, whereas demand for wherever the cost is really coming from probably is not.

The Telcos are using SMS money to subsidize more expensive parts of the business that people will probably opt out of if they were charged the full amount.

I don't know enough to say what those are, but you're right, the SMS money probably isn't all profit. Right-pricing SMS will probably mean that some other part of the business would be cut back (unfortunately R&D is often a victim).

When the current shareholders are pitted against the future shareholders, the future shareholders often lose.

Although KPN saw profits drop by 11% they are still a very profitable business (€368M in 2011). It may just be that the telecoms industry may eventually have to settle for lower margins like other established industries.

they made end up being dump pipes with low margins too.

Lack of money is generally not an issue for telecoms providers and SMS is an area that is so ridiculously overpriced that you could cut it by a factor of ten and still make money.

In the broadest sense, net neutrality's an abrogation of companies' rights to set terms for their products and allow consumers to agree or disagree. It limits the pricing and service dynamic.

Specifically for the net, it's a concession that we need gov't to wield the ultimate authority over detailed aspects of the Internet and step into many disputes between private parties if the specter of non-neutrality is raised (and of course it will be). You might think it's in your immediate favor, but voting for net neutrality isn't really voting for equal packet treatment: it's voting for government control over packet treatment, which will be turned against you in ways you haven't foreseen.

Net neutrality is like saying I can't open a store w/out handicap access, even though handicapped folks have the option of a) passing by my store to another; or b) finding a way to shop at mine because it's closer and has lower prices. "Shop neutrality" would dictate that if I won't treat everyone equally - although it's clear in my terms - I just shouldn't exist. There are those who agree with this analogy, too, of course.

You suppose the government should be the ultimate arbiter of what options should be on offer, rather than the entrepreneur and the market of free people? A dangerous way to look at it, I think.

No, the telecoms aren't by any stretch unregulated as it is. But if that's your complaint, tackle it from that direction, not by badly regulating bad regulations.

It's not regulation that causes there to be few choices among telecoms. It's the extremely high barrier to entry which is created by numerous factors, many natural.

Personally I sorta agree with you though, that I would rather have regulations that seek to break down the barriers to entry. For instance, require telcom companies to connect homes to a fiber network for a flat connection/service fee, and then allow any ISP to sell those customers internet access.

This is functionally like the network we had during the dial-up days. And the result was thousands of ISPs giving the typical customer dozens of choices. There was no need for government or anyone else to protect network neutrality because the market was functional, as is demonstrated by AOL finding it increasingly necessary to dismantle their walled-garden service to compete with the independent guys.

There were some halfhearted attempts to give ISPs access to the COs to offer DSL service beside the local telcom, but telcoms have been successful in sabotaging it.

The infrastructural barriers to entry are nontrivial, to be sure.

Further restrictions -- for example, kneecapping pricing structures that companies can use to differentiate themselves -- will only exacerbate that, though.

Another thought is that with the right market dynamic, I have more variety than it seems at first blush: cable, DSL, fiber, dial-up, satellite, WiMax, 3G, power lines, and possibly others. There's a variegation of technical specialty there that lends itself to horizontal competition by many companies. For heavy usage, several of these are currently poor... but looking at our present options and determining that only cable and fiber matter, for instance, is selling innovation short. It's surprising what can crop up out of nowhere when someone sees an unexploited opportunity.

The reason there hasn't been a mass flight from the standard telcos yet, I think, is that packet profiling has largely taken the form of capping torrents for heavy users, which is a small minority of the market -- and they're arguably being capped for the benefit of the majority. If the telcos make a gamble on harming access or speeds for the majority, there will be a scramble for alternatives, and they will present themselves.

Legislation is too often proposed with the deeply flawed assumption of an inelastic economic model.

I've always struggled a bit with the concept of net neutrality. Leigislation should improve/secure freedom of choice. If it is about keeping providers from throttling traffic based on the traffic-source ( = prohibition of choices) I'm all for it.

But what about my freedom to choose a slower connection? Or one without video chat capacities? I propably would be ok with paying half the price if my traffic has not the highest priority.

When I had less income, an internet connection might have been more affordable if I wasn't forced to buy traffic capacities I didn't need. I have a couple of friends who still struggle to afford internet (sadly, the more time passes without internet access, the harder it'll get for them to ever improve on their income).

Does the "net neutrality" concept differentiate between "intent of usage" and "interest of usage"? The first to me seems more important to be kept neutral.

(What I mean by the latter might be better expalined with the 19th century rail-pricing systems where you had 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers. 3rd class was dirty, packed and propably pathoenic. But more importantly, the "3rd class" could afford the ride. )

My understanding, and what I mean by Net Neutrality is that ISPs should treat packets that I access equally. This does not prevent ISPs from providing tiered services or instituting network caps.

For example, if I get a plan that promises: 1) 5 mbs download 2) 1 mbs upload 3) 15 GB usage cap

The ISP is well within it's rights to provide me with such a slow connection, as long as the packets I access on that slower connection are treated equally.

Net Neutrality is not concerned with providing everyone the same internet speeds, but rather that packets are treated equally (ie throttle all packets equally, instead of discriminating against certain packets).

Thanks for making that a bit clearer to me.

I'm still confused why/if an ISP shouldn't be able to go further with offering me a "Non-You-Tube/Grooveshark-Plan" if it would be cheaper. I guess one critical point is that my data packages should not be looked into for privacy issues. But considering your mentioned plan: You could be rewarded for not using the 5mbs bandwith constantly.

So instead of looking into the data packages, using the "length of a data stream" to penalize heavy-users shouldn't be at odds with net neutrality. Right?

That's right, penalizing heavy users is not against net neutrality, although depending on how a company goes about doing this it could yield some pretty bad PR (see: AT&T throttling of users that have Unlimited plans).

As to why an ISP should not be able to go further with offering you a "Non-You-Tube/Grooveshark-Plan", that is actually the main thing that Net Neutrality was created to stop. ISPs filtering traffic and access to websites based on content.

The greatest fear that proponents of Net Neutrality have is that ISPs will begin walling off the Internet and restricting access to sites in an effort to increase profits.

Currently, the internet is the closest thing that society has to pure competition and freedom of expression.

Imagine if when Facebook first started, MySpace had spent millions paying ISPs to slow down all traffic to Facebook.com, they would have effectively killed it.

Or imagine if a rich billionaire on the Right (or the Left) did not like what a certain website was saying about him and/or his ideology, he would be able to pay ISPs to slow down all traffic to those sites (thus providing a chilling effect on free speech and expression).

And anyway, if your aim is to reduce the cost of an internet connection, the best thing to do would be to increase competition among ISPs. Without competition, even if the costs of ISPs go down, they have no incentive to decrease prices (unless doing so could increase their bottom line), in fact, they may even increase prices if the choice to consumers is either pay more for internet or have NO internet at all.

A large problem with the high cost of the Internet is that many ISPs either through the government become the only company that can legally provide Internet service in an area (government supported monopoly), OR like it is where I live (Montreal, Canada) there is a small number of ISPs and they have carved out regions that they have decided NOT to compete.

I'm proud of them, but the Internet is international - without broad acceptance, we run the risk of effectively having distinct National Internets with different rules and regulations. That scares me a bit, because the potential is still to have unhindered communications between anyone, anywhere.

Net neutrality should be built into the fabric of the Internet through better technology - legislation clearly isn't working.

There are already "national Internets". This is just the nature of the beast, the Internet being mostly decentralized.

And btw, when it comes to net neutrality, I don't think it's such a good idea, because I'm a firm believer in a free market and government regulations only hinder competition.

Net neutrality may be a solution in the U.S. where monopolies are a bigger issue and where you don't have much choice in regards to your net provider depending on location, but in Europe the competition is pretty tough.

For instance people criticized the net neutrality proposal pushed by Google because it exempts mobile providers, however in my country there are 3 major carriers (plus a couple of smaller ones), each of them with mostly the same network coverage, each of them with 3G data plans, each of them operating on the same standards and compatible frequencies. Also under our law, you can always interrupt a contract, the only penalty being that you have to give back the subsidized amount for the remaining period (e.g. the price of the phone minus the initial price, divided by 24 and multiplied by the number of remaining months), but if you have a contract with no subsidy, there are no penalties involved. And since you can also move your number from one carrier to another, there is absolutely no lock-in effect, other than the bureaucracy involved. Also, for locked phones, the carrier must unlock it for free once the subsidy is paid.

The competition is pretty though, and the PrePay plans here would make you jealous ;-) And in my area I also have not less than 3 major broadband providers which are national, so the same arguments hold for landlines.

In this light, in the context of cut-throat competition, yet another government regulation simply does not make sense.

I wouldn't say the competition is very tough in the Netherlands, as there are also only a few large players (each with multiple brands/subsidiaries under them). Furthermore, a couple months ago, the dutch FTC put major telecom providers under review for making alleged cartel price agreements.

On a higher level, I am certainly for a free market, but don't dismiss government regulations purely because they can 'only hinder competition'. That is a very dogmatic statement as regulations aren't always 'bad'/hindering competition. No personal offense intended, but I always find the strength of belief in a purely free market for some people to be almost the same as how other people believe in religion, very idealistic and extreme. There are a lot of subtleties and nuances to free markets. Also, is pursuing a free market a goal in itself, or a means to an end in creating a 'good society'. In the latter case, other advantages of certain regulations should be considered as well.

Lastly, regarding the issue at hand, next to economical arguments, I think a large part of getting this regulation has comes from other motivations such as valuing equality and accessibility for all etc.

I do agree with what you say and I'm sure that our current economic models are far from perfect and in fact there is no such thing as a truly free market, being more of an ideal that's as hard to pursue as true communism (probably because reality is too complex for such models).

I'm not being religions here. However, I do think that capitalism does work because of competition and in the context of capitalism, the worst that could happen in a market is the creation of a monopoly / oligopoly.

The context is important here. I'm against government regulations, because such legislation increases the chances of such monopolies and despite what many people think, few monopolies are "natural", with most of them being driven by legislation.

     > valuing equality and accessibility for all
Since you brought religion into discussion, you know how they say: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". This is another way of saying that decisions based on good intentions often have unexpected and far-reaching consequences, that may actually have the opposite effect of what you're trying to do.

My problem with "net neutrality" proposals is that I haven't seen any unbiased and throughout analysis of its pitfalls from its proponents. Another problem I have is that the Net was never "neutral", so why is that an issue right now? And sure there are problems, but aren't we fixing the symptoms here rather than the cause?

I don't think it's such a good idea, because I'm a firm believer in a free market and government regulations only hinder competition. [...] Also under our law, you can always interrupt a contract, the only penalty being that you have to give back the subsidized amount for the remaining period

So much for believing in a free market...

Also you can not really expect ordinary people to care about stuff like this. They will gladly pay more for getting rid of net neutrality only realizing their mistake when it is too late.

Telecoms are such a highly regulated market already (just to start with, you have to have paid a few hundred million for a bit of spectrum, if there's some available at all), that I don't see this extra regulation breaking it even more.

On the other hand, it's an essential bit of regulation to ensure that the market for services running over those networks works more like a free market. That is, I think you should favour this one ;)

This is getting off-topic for Hacker News, but you need some legislation to maintain the parameters of a free market. Net neutrality is the fair basis of an online market.

Legislation is useful as long as it promotes consumer choice.

But if you pay close attention, legislation in the U.S. is also the reason for why there is a lack of choice for consumers in regards to Internet providers. I invite you to read this article:


It's also why the phone system works at all, not to mention the Internet itself. But I agree that the extent of the Bell model was too far.

Net neutrality may be a solution in the U.S. where monopolies are a bigger issue and where you don't have much choice in regards to your net provider depending on location.

Actually, 98% of US zipcodes have 2+ broadband providers, and 88% of US zipcodes have 4+ broadband providers. This is from the FCC's own data and excludes 4G providers, which are popping up like crazy (I'm posting this via a Clear mifi device for example).


That includes things that are clearly not broadband, like satellite and "3G" that has a 2GB cap. Very few homes have access to more than 2 "real" broadband providers (your choices are the cable company or the telephone company, period.)

From the report: "The terms “high-speed connections” and “broadband connections” are synonyms in this report" and defines them as 200kbps+.

We could let this devolve into a semantic argument about "broadband," "real broadband," etc. but what would be the point?

My point is that according to that 2008 FCC report, 99.7% of US zipcodes have a choice of 200kbps+ internet provider, and most have even better. This doesn't include any of the networks that have been built out since 2008, like the 4G 6Mbps network I'm using right now.

It's simply not true that "very few homes" only have high-speed internet through a cable or telephone company.

The FCC's idea that 200kbps is "broadband" is bullshit. A hard drive fedexed across-country overnight is "broadband" by that definition, but the latency makes it pretty unpalatable, don't you think?

No idea what you're getting at. Are monopolistic internet providers about to slam us all with 48 hour round trip times? Unless we let the FCC (which doesn't have a clue about what it's regulating, according to you) enforce net neutrality?

It's easy to claim 99% of the country has multiple broadband options if you count satellite as a broadband option, since theoretically everyone CONUS can get it. I don't, because of the 2 second latency.

So satellite is responsible for these coverage numbers? I don't buy it. In the report, satellite connections account for a mere 0.65% of all high-speed lines.

I realize that's not the same thing as coverage of zip codes. Unfortunately the report doesn't break out the number of non-satellite providers per zip code. But, it does break out the number of providers of different types reporting per state, and satellite provider numbers are either 0 or redacted across the board (because they're deanonymizingly low).

If you run numbers on the zipcode data for 2008 [1], 88% of US census tracts had 4+ providers, 75% had 5+ providers, and 60% had 6+ providers. It's just not plausible that satellite providers account for this.

[1] http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Reports/FCC-State_...

Penetration of 200kbps connections is meaningless in a post-1998 world. That's not even enough to watch YouTube. Also, coverage by zip code or census tract is misleading, as large zipcodes in rural areas may count as having multiple providers, but only a small portion of the zip code actually has coverage.

In order for coverage and competition statistics to be useful, they need to keep up with modern bandwidth and latency requirements. IMO the absolute bare minimum that should be acceptable is 2mbit/s (for sub-SDTV video quality), with ping times less than 80ms. Meaningful participation in the modern digital world requires 15mbit/s or better, especially for households with more than one person.

Still, it is useful if at least one country legislates it. It means that organizations that rely on net neutrality, or strive to achieve net neutrality through technological means, could move to that country and do their work unhindered. No bullying ISPs etc...

Another reason why Appsterdam rocks!

"Net neutrality should be built into the fabric of the Internet through better technology - legislation clearly isn't working."

There was a lot of coverage about some kind of mesh network being developed in response to SOPA (reddit related?). Is it still going strong?

You might be thinking of this http://www.reddit.com/r/darknetplan/ . I don't think it's ever gotten off the ground and is still people talking about it online.

The FNF has made more progress, but still fairly bogged down in organizational busywork. http://www.freenetworkmovement.org/commons/index.php?title=F...

Then why is BREIN allowed to force Ziggo to block access to TPB?

I'm glad Dutch ISPs are not allowed to throttle my traffic to specific websites. But apparently blackholing it is still allowed.

Blackholing because the ISP made a contract with BREIN to do so is probably a net neutrality violation.

Blackholing because a judge ordered to is not. When disagreeing with the judge, give him better guidelines to work with (ie. change the law)

> The net neutrality law prohibits internet providers from interfering with the traffic of their users.

Censoring The Pirate Bay is interfering the with the users' traffic. Does that mean the court ruling of Ziggo and Xs4all being forces to censor that site, contradicts this legislation?

My VPS located in Netherlands just got more valuable!

After it became apparent by parlement representitives they probably had to pay "chatheffing" - chattax, this law was reality quite fast.

It's pretty hopefull the law passed senate unanimously.

This is great step towards a global untapped internet where people can have their freedom of speech without the need of fear of being spied upon. I hope more countries follows this example; The Netherlands proves once again that they are one step ahead in integrity-politics.


Isn't every country's far-right?

If your a socialist, sure. But if you consider working for money the same as slavery nobody should care what you think.

Care to elaborate?

actually the third country after chile and norway


That is something. I wonder if there is a similar law to protect my Internet privacy from my boss in the Netherlands.

Your "internet privacy" is protected just fine as long as you don't use the company's network, e-mail, and laptop. And as long as you don't go sharing all your things to everybody (twitter, f-book).

In a number of countries, companies don't have full rights to snoop on employees' network communications, even at work. In Denmark, I believe email is considered quasi-private. A boss can read an employee's mail, but must go through a process where the reason they need to do so is formally documented.

The situation is not entirely clear even in the US: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125859862658454923.html

Thanks for the info!

"Now, courts are increasingly taking into account whether employers have explicitly described how email is monitored to their employees. "

Yes this is why all contracts have been updated. It's in most new contracts. (The 'fine print'). Best thing to do is not use the company e-mail privately (if you value your privacy that is).

bof(fen) wij toch ff :)

Yeah but what has BOF really been doing lately?

They're just reporting this, it's not like we have them to thank for it.

And in the mean time BREIN manages to sue Dutch ISPs into blackholing TPB.

I really wonder whether my monthly donation is doing much good. I'll keep donating, but it'd be nice to see some (recent) successes.

How do people in the Netherlands feel about the notion of "common carrier"?


Is common carrier a useful concept for society?

What do you think?

I just love European nordic countries, their mentality is like 30 years ahead of rest of the world. Plus they have awesome metal bands.

That's great, but let's get back on the topic of West-European countries, shall we? The Netherlands isn't Nordic by any stretch. Nor do they have awesome metal bands by the way.

My bad, I meant north european countries. But regarding the metal bands I still stick with the nordic countries like sweden and finland ;)

It's also not North European. Unless you consider Germany, England, Poland and Belgium to be North European, in which case half of Europe is North Europe.

Netherlands isn't a nordic country.

Yup and the Netherlands used to be ahead on some topic but it looks like we're going backwards atm. Referring to Wietpas and Brein-vs-piratebay

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