Re-opening the Internet?

Two recent news stories suggest that the importance of open Internet connectivity is gaining increasing international recognition.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has published a report stressing the importance both of making internet infrastructure available to as much of the world’s population as possible, and of ensuring that the infrastructure has the least possible restrictions on what content can be accessed. He expresses concern about activities in a wide range of countries that involve “arbitrary blocking or filtering of content; criminalization of legitimate expression; imposition of intermediary liability; disconnecting users from Internet access, including on the basis of intellectual property rights law; cyberattacks; and inadequate protection of the right to privacy and data protection”. Some types of content are recognised as representing such a serious infringement of others’ human rights that statutory restrictions may be necessary, including “child pornography…, hate speech…, defamation…, direct and public incitement to commit genocide… and advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred…”, but even for these there is a preference for dealing with the problem at the edge of the network where perpetrators and victims are located, rather than in the network core. He also suggests that the nature of the Internet may mean that lighter touch regulation is needed than for traditional media.

And according to the BBC the Netherlands seems likely to become the second country in the world (after Chile) to use legislation to prevent commercial discrimination being applied to internet connectivity. It is reported that a new bill will prohibit mobile network operators from blocking or charging extra for the ability to make internet telephony calls. In the past the European Commission has expressed concern about such activities, but had proposed to see whether market forces would be sufficient to discourage it. It seems that the Dutch Parliament has decided that this is not enough.

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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