EU rules on net neutrality (open internet) apply as of 30 April 2016, following the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 on 25 November 2015.
This regulation is a major achievement for the Digital Single Market. It creates the individual and enforceable right for end-users to access and distribute internet content and services of their choice. Common EU rules on net neutrality ensure that the same provisions apply across Europe.
Every European must be able to have access to the open internet and all content and service providers must be able to provide their services via a high-quality open internet. Under these rules, blocking, throttling and discrimination of internet traffic by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is not allowed in the EU, save for three exhaustive exceptions (compliance with legal obligations; integrity of the network; congestion management in exceptional and temporary situations) and users are free to use their favourite apps and services no matter the offer they subscribe to.
All traffic has to be treated equally. This means, for example, that there can be no prioritisation of traffic in the internet access service. At the same time, equal treatment allows reasonable day-to-day traffic management according to objectively justified technical requirements, and which must be independent of the origin or destination of the traffic and of any commercial considerations. Common rules on net neutrality mean that internet access providers cannot pick winners or losers on the internet, or decide which content and services are available.
The rules also give certainty for internet access providers and providers of content and applications to offer specialised services with specific quality requirements, including necessary safeguards to ensure the open internet is not negatively affected by the provision of these services. Specialised services cannot be a substitute to internet access services, can only be provided if there is sufficient network capacity to provide them in addition to any internet access service and must not be to the detriment of the availability or general quality of internet access services for end-users.
National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) will have to monitor market developments. They will have the powers and the obligation to assess traffic management, comercial practices and agreements and to effectively enforce the Regulation.
NRAs will also have to ensure that the quality of the Internet access service reflects advances in technology. They are empowered to set minimum quality of service requirements on Internet access providers and other appropriate measures to ensure that all end-users enjoy an open Internet access service of good quality.
On 30 August 2016 the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), in close cooperation with the Commission and after consulting stakeholders, issued guidelines for the implementation of the obligations of NRAs in order to contribute to the consistent application of this Regulation. The guidelines will help NRAs to assess inter alia agreements and commercial practices and ''specialised services'' against a common benchmark, and to reach consistent decisions and enforcement actions.