On Friday, the Dutch passed a law prohibiting Internet providers from slowing traffic unless it's to preserve security, ease congestion, or block spam, making the Netherlands the first country in Europe to legislate what providers can and can’t do, and second country to do so in the world.
The law also bans advertisers from putting cookies on PCs without the user's consent and forbids operators from charging based on access to services and applications, such as charging to use Skype on smartphones.
Earlier this week, Danish police proposed abolishing all anonymous Internet access. Police argued that if Internet providers were required to gather proof of identity before allowing users to connect, police could use that data to more effectively fight terrorism.
Melissa Bell and I have both argued about how important we think anonymity is online.
Anonymity has allowed bloggers in the Middle East to safely tell the world what is happening in their countries during the Arab Spring. Anonymity allows everyone online a freedom of expression, a creativity and a breadth of discussion that might not occur if a name had to be attached. The increased access to data that the police will have does not seem to outweigh these benefits.
The net neutrality law, on the other hand, has support from many in the Internet community. Stricter laws ensuring neutrality are being pushed in the U.S. Most consumers will be happy not to get annoying cookies from advertisers, and to have justified Internet speed. And as Damien Kulash wrote in The Post, “On the Internet, when I send my ones and zeros somewhere, they shouldn’t have to wait in line behind the ones and zeros of wealthier people or corporations.”
How packets travel on the Internet has been akin to the Wild, Wild West for 28 years. Many have said that now is the time to finally equalize consumers’ participation on the Web, and the Netherlands’ law makes a serious effort to do that.