The EU's Regulation on open Internet access grants end-users the directly applicable right to access and distribute the lawful content and services of their choice via their Internet access service. It enshrines the principle of open internet access: internet traffic shall be treated without discrimination, blocking, throttling or prioritisation. At the same time, the EU open internet access rules allow reasonable traffic management and, with the necessary safeguards, "specialised services”.

Our commitment to open internet access

EU rules on open internet access apply as of 30 April 2016, following the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 on 25 November 2015 by the European Parliament and the Council.

This Regulation is a major achievement for the Digital Single Market. It creates the individual and enforceable right for end-users in the EU to access and distribute internet content and services of their choice. The Regulation also enshrines the principle of non-discriminatory traffic management. Common EU rules on open internet access ensure that the same provisions apply across Europe.

The enforcement of the open internet rules is an important task of National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) which should respect the guidelines adopted by BEREC in August 2016. The Commission continues to monitor closely the application of the Regulation.

Under these rules, blocking, throttling and discrimination of internet traffic by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is not allowed in the EU. There are three exceptions: compliance with legal obligations; integrity of the network; congestion management in exceptional and temporary situations.

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. 

The Regulation also clarifies the requirements regarding the provision of specialised services with specific quality requirements by internet access providers and providers of content and applications. They must respect certain safeguards to ensure that the open internet is not negatively affected by the provision of these services. Specialised services cannot be a substitute to internet access services, they can only be provided if there is sufficient network capacity to provide them in addition to any internet access service and they must not be to the detriment of the availability or general quality of internet access services for end-users.

The role of regulators and BEREC guidelines

National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) have to monitor market developments. They have the powers and the obligation to assess traffic management, comercial practices and agreements and to effectively enforce the Regulation.

NRAs 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 having consulted stakeholders, issued guidelines for the implementation of the obligations of NRAs in order to contribute to the consistent application of this Regulation. The guidelines 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.

Currently BEREC is reviewing the Guidelines in close cooperation with the Commission.

Annual country reports on open internet from national regulators

According to Article 5 of the Regulation, National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) have to closely monitor and ensure compliance with the provisions on open internet. NRAs are requested to publish annual reports and share these with the Commission and BEREC.

The Commission makes available the annual country reports from national regulators on open internet received.

These reports were prepared by the National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) and sent to the Commission and BEREC. The first set of reports covered the first twelve months of applicability of the open internet rules, i.e. from 1 May 2016 to end of April 2017. The second set of reports covered the year from 1 May 2017 until 30 April 2018.

Commission report on open internet access

On 30 April 2019, the Commission issued a report on the implementation of the Open Internet access Regulation. The aim of the report is to review the provisions of the Regulation on open internet access. The Commission has compared the current situation with the one in 2015 and has concluded that the Regulation’s principles are appropriate and effective in protecting end-users rights and promoting the internet as an innovative engine.

No amendments are proposed for the Regulation at this stage, in order to continue with this period of regulatory stability and in view of continuing protecting end-users rights and promoting open access to the internet.

The Commission will continue to monitor developments in the market and will issue a report of the Regulation on open internet access every four years.
 

More information:

  • European Commission Report on the implementation of the Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 (April 2019)
  • European Commission Study on open internet (April 2019)
  • BEREC Report on the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 and BEREC Net Neutrality Guidelines (December 2017)
  • BEREC Guidelines on the Implementation by National Regulators of European Net Neutrality Rules (August 2016)
  • Statement by Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger welcoming guidelines on EU net neutrality rules by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC)
  • Press release: bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market: No roaming charges as of June 2017
  • Roaming charges and open internet: Questions and Answers (October 2015)
  • Vice-President's opinion piece on Net Neutrality in Le Monde (December 2017)