from the tightening-loopholes dept.
European telecom regulator BEREC has updated its net neutrality guidelines to include a strict ban on zero-rating practices that exempt specific apps or categories of apps from data caps imposed by Internet service providers.
The document published Tuesday provides guidance to national regulatory authorities on their "obligations to closely monitor and ensure compliance with the rules to safeguard equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic in the provision of Internet access services and related end-users' rights." BEREC stands for Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.
"Despite intense lobbying from big carriers and giant platforms, BEREC voted to clearly ban zero-rating offers that benefit select apps or categories of apps by exempting them from people's monthly data caps," Stanford Law Professor Barbara van Schewick wrote. "The ban applies whether the app pays to be included or not, closing a loophole in the draft guidelines."
[...] The new BEREC guidelines came in response to a September 2021 Court of Justice ruling that "zero tariff" options that distinguish between types of Internet traffic "on the basis of commercial considerations" violate Europe's Open Internet rules requiring "equal treatment of traffic, without discrimination or interference."
In the new guidelines, BEREC said it "considers any differentiated pricing practices which are not application-agnostic to be inadmissible for IAS [Internet access service] offers, such as applying a zero price to ISPs' own applications or CAPs [content, applications, and services] subsidizing their own data." Additionally, a "price-differentiated offer where all applications are blocked (or slowed down) once the data cap is reached except for the application(s) for which zero price or a different price than all other traffic is applied would infringe" European rules, BEREC said. The rules apply to both mobile and fixed Internet service.