France Considers Net Neutrality Law

Is France about to join the "net neutrality club?" According to this Ars Technica report that is a distinct possibility, but some things need to be worked out first… The French government has put forward a new plan that could enshrine net neutrality into national law, and should it pass it would become the second country in Europe.

Two other countries – the Netherlands and Chile currently have laws about net neutrality. The United States has its own form of net neutrality rules enacted by the FCC, but many think that the rules were watered down by lobbyists for service providers during negotiations…

Fleur Pellerin, France’s Minister of the Digital Economy "accepted" a 67-page report released earlier this month by the National Digital Council. One of the hurdles in the new report, according to digital rights groups in the country is that the bill has no enforcement measures at all like sanctions against companies that violate the proposed net neutrality provisions. Another point of contention is a loophole for fighting so-called illegal content or material online.

Jérémie Zimmerman of Paris-based activist group La Quadrature du Net told Ars Technica today that he would like to see net neutrality rules similar to what is offered in the Netherlands.

“[We just want] something in the telecommunications act to say, 'restricting communications based on the sender, or receiver, or type of data is illegal, and if you do it, you’ll be sanctioned,'” he added. “Except for the security of the network and its users, or temporary and non-foreseeable congestion. That’s what we call effective protection of net neutrality.”

A line in page 2 of the document is also proving to be contentious. It says that service providers have to guarantee access "to all that is legal." The problem is that the document never fully defines what exactly is legal, leaving a gaping loophole for those looking to fight against so-called copyright infringement.

Some, like Dutch IT lawyer Arthur van der Wees, see this as a mechanism that can be used for censorship.

“So, trying to pin down and define what ‘anything that is legal’ means (as per Page 2 of the report), will always be unsatisfactory for one or more parties or end users,” he wrote. “Trying to get to a binary split between good and wrong will not work, and in my view will lead to imbalance and may lead infringement of basic human rights. In short, this French initiative is to be closely monitored. So far in the Netherlands, the new law on net neutrality has—to the extent I know at this time—not lead to strange outcomes or abuse. But then again, it has only been implemented 2.5 months ago, so it is a bit too early to celebrate.”

You can check out the entire report here. France may very well be on its way to making net neutrality the law of the land at some point, but in the interim it looks like they have to eliminate the murky language and mechanisms for potential censorship from the current draft that has been accepted…

Source Ars Technica


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