‘Net neutrality’ bill passed by European Parliament

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By Toby Sterling, AP

AMSTERDAM — The European Parliament adopted a “net neutrality” bill on Thursday, barring Internet service providers from giving preference to some kinds of traffic on their networks — such as streaming video — when it profits them.

The legislation responded to fears that providers would allot the lion’s share of their bandwidth to people and companies willing to pay extra, slowing the Internet for others.

The bill also forbids telecommunications companies from blocking or degrading Internet services such as Skype or WhatsApp to prevent them from competing with their own offerings.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, who authored the bill, hailed the 534-25 vote as “historic.”

The vote was greeted with delight by consumer advocates and online freedoms groups, and with dismay by telecoms, who say they are systematically being denied profits they need to innovate and invest in new capacity.

European policy is now departing sharply with the route taken in the U.S., where a net neutrality law was struck down in January. Since then, Netflix has contracted with Comcast for preferential treatment of Internet traffic bearing its film streams.