The European Parliament has voted to implement net neutrality rules that would – if fully approved – restrict internet service providers' from charging data-intensive services such as Netflix for faster network access. The new law still needs to be approved by Europe's Council of Ministers.
The new rules would also prohibit mobile networks and broadband providers from blocking services such as WhatApp messages or Google Drive storage, which critics argue could be exploited to allow child pornography to be shared via these types of services.
A section that originally said that sites could be blocked if it was necessary to "implement a legislative provision or a court order, or prevent or impede serious crimes" was shortened in the final version to refer only to court orders.
Naturally ISPs are not happy about this new law.
"Whilst we support an open internet, a set of misconceptions about our industry, together with a rushed legislative process and a lack of technical analysis, risk transforming the Connected Continent Regulation into an anti-innovation and anti-consumer choice legislation," said a joint statement from four trade bodies representing cable and telecom operators.
"The current draft legislative compromise in the European Parliament reflects very restrictive views on how the internet should work and on how specialized services with enhanced quality could be offered."
UK ISP BT said in a statement that the UK's major ISPs currently operated under a voluntary code that promises to treat all traffic consistently, regardless of its source, which already provided "an extremely strong safeguard for the neutrality of the internet."
Rights groups say that this is great news:
"The EU Parliament made clear that the internet commons should be free of corporate capture, and remain a space where freedom of communication and innovation can thrive," said French digital rights campaign group La Quadrature du Net.
While this new law stops ISPs from charging services such as Netflix extra for bandwidth, one consumer group says that consumers can expect to pay higher bills anyway.
"One way or another the costs will always be passed on to the end-user," said Chris Green, a tech analyst at the Davies Murphy Group. "That could be through higher ISP charges: monthly broadband fees have been bottoming out for years and in many cases have been sold as loss leaders – that's likely to change off the back of this ruling."
"The ISPs can still charge the video providers to install data caching hardware inside their networks to enhance their services," Green added.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission said that if the net neutrality proposal clears its remaining hurdles, it will become law by the end of the year.
You can read the new law here.