European citizens rights groups are urging the public to campaign for net neutrality, warning that impending EU legislation could restrict individuals' online access.
EU meetings due to take place later this year will decide whether internet service providers (ISPs) can restrict online access at their discretion.
Telecoms operators claim that they want more control over availability in order to provide a better quality service to users. But French organisation La Quadrature du Net has argued that they actually want the control in order to favour their own services over competitors'.
"Until now, net neutrality has been the rule, both for technical and economical reasons," said La Quadrature du Net. "However, it is now under the threat of network operators who see business opportunities in discriminating information flowing through their networks."
ISPs will be able to impose restrictions on their customers if the European Parliament swings rounds to the European Council's viewpoint in what is now the third reading of the Telecoms Reform Package.
During this "conciliation procedure", the Parliament and the Council are trying to negotiate modifications to the originally proposed revision to five EU directives collectively known as the EU Telecoms Rules of 2002. The revision aims to make the European telecoms market more unified.
European citizens will have an opportunity to take part in the debate.
The report in question, authored by UK MEP Malcolm Harbour, details changes to the Universal Services Directive, which considers whether citizens' use of the internet can be restricted by ISPs.
A European Parliament change, known as Amendment 166, stated that ISPs are prohibited from blocking users at their discretion.
In the last EU sitting before summer recess, the Parliament and Council could not reach a decision on the whole Telecoms Package after two attempts, which meant that all five directives will be debated again this autumn.
The groups passing the revised Telecoms Package were mainly held up by the Framework Directive and its Amendment 138, which relates to illegal downloading policies, rather than disagreement with the Universal Services Directive, which was actually voted through by the European Parliament in May.
For net neutrality to be restricted, the Directive will have to be voted through again by the conciliation committee.
The committee's membership is expected to be announced by the end of September, while the first committee meetings are expected in early October and a final decision on the issue by November.
Dutch broadband provider UPC recently became the first operator to bring in a new system whereby customers will pay more to access certain services and providers.
The system will cut users' bandwidth by two thirds when accessing bandwidth-intensive services, which UPC claims will enable it to solve network problems and provide all customers with faster access.
The outcome of the Parliament's debate on the Universal Services Directive, however, may jeopardise UPC's plans.
La Quadrature du Net has urged Europeans to call on their MEPs to preserve net neutrality, and to denounce network operators publically if they break neutrality, before switching to another provider.
"As soon as the conciliation committee for the Telecoms Package will have been named, it will be very important to make sure that its members are fully informed as well, and willing to take positive steps towards preserving net neutrality," said the rights group.
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