Broadband operators are likely to be able to restrict access to services and applications at their discretion from next year, after the European Parliament voted through the controversial Harbour Report this week as part of a wider reform of European telecoms legislation.
"Now the ball is in the court of the Council of Telecoms Ministers to decide whether or not to accept this package of reforms," said European commissioner Viviane Reding in a statement on her web site.
The Telecoms Council will cast the final decision on the Telecoms Package 2002 in a meeting on 12 June, but its focus will be on an amendment to the Framework Directive, rather than on issues already passed by the European Parliament, according to an EU spokeswoman.
"It is informally agreed that the telecoms council will only look at the Trautman amendment," said the spokeswoman.
Citizens' rights groups have argued that the adoption of the Harbour Report will be the end of net neutrality, and lead to a 'sub internet'. They claim that the report was heavily influenced by US telecoms giants, including AT&T and Verizon, and are signs of the European Parliament watering down its concerns in order to form a consensus with the European Council ahead of the elections set for early June.
Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of rights group La Quadrature du Net, said that the passing of the report will allow ISPs to prioritise their own content and charge users more money to access competitive sites.
"This will create big problems for internet innovation, is anti-competitive and stops freedom of expression," he said.
The amendment to the Telecoms Package will focus debate on what is known as Amendment 138. Without this, EU countries could bring in so-called 'three strikes' copyright enforcement measures.
Although Catherine Trautman, the author of the report relating to the Framework Directive, left the amendment out of her most recent text, the European Parliament has now voted it back in.
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