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Netherlands passes Europe's first net neutrality law

The Netherlands has become the first European country (and the second in the world after Chile) to put net neutrality into law, after the upper house of parliament passed a new Telecommunications Act on May 8th. The new law guarantees unhindered access to the internet and prohibits the unauthorised use of cookies.

The officialisation of net neutrality comes on the heels of an intense debate that ensued when KPN decided to start charging for access to free online services such as WhatsApp (a text messaging service).officialisation of net neutrality comes on the heels of an intense debate that ensued when KPN decided to start charging for access to free online services such as WhatsApp (a text messaging service).

The new law states that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all websites equally (i.e. it bans blocking or throttling only specific websites, such as Skype), and that ISPs may not charge more money for services offered by competitors, such as WhatsApp or Skype. However, court-ordered site blocking can still take place. Thus, illegal download sites such as The Pirate Bay will remain blocked.

In order to better protect user privacy, the new law also specifies that sites using cookies must explicitly ask for user permission before using them. Cookies allow websites to track the behaviour of internet users so they can monitor browsing behaviour and, for example, better target advertising or automatically fill in forms.

The law also includes an anti-wiretapping provision, which restricts ISPs from using invasive wiretapping technologies, such as deep packet inspection, to monitor its users. However, wiretapping is permitted with a warrant.

Moreover, the law includes a provision stating that ISPs can only disconnect their users in a very limited set of circumstances, for example in the case of fraud or when a user does not pay his bills.

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Carly Blair

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