Delight As EU Parliament Committee Backs Internet Freedom

22 April 2009
Alyn Smith MEP, alternate member of the European Parliament's powerful Industry, Research and Energy Committee, has expressed his pleasure with the vote on the Telecoms Package as a victory for fundamental rights of access to the internet.

The committee overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Trautmann Report which asserts that "no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end users" (without a prior ruling by judicial authorities, or when public security is threatened), and references the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

This amendment will make it very difficult to introduce laws that would allow internet service providers or governments to cut off users' internet access without a proper and independent judicial process, and came in the teeth of opposition particularly from the French, who wanted to see a much more onerous inspection and access regime.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Smith said:

"This is fantastic news, and shows that the Parliament is on the side of our citizens and on the side of internet freedom.

"I'm delighted that the Parliament has continued to uphold its position that it adopted at first reading back in September, which I supported. Access to the internet is absolutely essential for people and businesses. I am deeply worried by proposals in France and elsewhere to impose a so-called "graduated access" or "three strikes and you're out" model, where a user's internet access can be blocked for minor violations of copyright. Not only is this a violation of basic freedoms, but the comprehensive surveillance of internet users it implies is absolutely unacceptable in a free society. We can only begin to contemplate such drastic action after serious violations of criminal law, and only through a rigorous judicial process which is completely independent of corporations or governments.

"I firmly believe in the principle of "net neutrality": internet access must be comprehensive, complete and universal, with no restrictions apart from actual violations of criminal law, and no surveillance of internet users. I will oppose all attempts to restrict access for users.

"Unfortunately, due to French pressure, the member state governments are still likely to act as a roadblock on this issue. I urge the Council to approve this amendment as soon as possible so we can vote it through plenary and make it law. Europe's internet users demand and deserve nothing less."