Under the EU Regulation, users of internet access services have the right to access and distribute information and content, and to use and provide applications and services of their choice. Users have this right irrespective of the origin or destination of the information. This principle is also called net neutrality.
Characteristics of internet access services such as speed, data volumes included in the service or price of the subscription may still be agreed in a subscriber connection agreement. However, such agreements may not limit the users’ right to open internet.
Net neutrality also means that users have the right to use terminal equipment of their choice, such as a phone or modem. However, the terminal equipment must conform to the technical requirements of operators.
Equal treatment of traffic as a starting point
The principle of net neutrality requires operators to treat all internet traffic equally. For instance, operators may not usually restrict traffic to certain internet addresses or impose restrictions on certain type of traffic. However, operators may apply reasonable traffic management measures. These measures contribute to an efficient use of network resources and to an optimisation of overall quality of internet services.
As an exception, operators may restrict internet traffic as necessary in order to
- comply with legislation, or decisions by courts or public authorities
- preserve the security of the network and terminal equipment
- prevent network congestion and mitigate the effects of existing congestion if it is exceptional or temporary in nature.
Furthermore, operators are free to offer services in their network that are optimised for specific content, applications or services requiring a higher level of connection quality than provided by ordinary internet access services. Services requiring optimisation may include telephone services in the mobile network (e.g. VoLTE) and television services provided by operators over broadband (IPTV). However, all internet subscriptions must be treated equally and operators cannot favour any subscriptions. Operators may offer optimised services only if it does not impair the general quality of internet access services.
Rules on contractual terms supplement the principle of net neutrality
Net neutrality also means that operators must provide clear and comprehensible information about the characteristics of different subscriptions in their agreements and on their websites. Customers must be informed, for example,
- of the speed of the internet access service as required by the Regulation
- how data quotas, speed or other quality factors may in practice affect the internet access service and the use of different contents, applications and services, in particular
- how traffic management measures applied by the operators may affect the quality of the internet connection
- how ordered services that require optimisation (such as above-mentioned IPTV) affect the internet access service, including its speed.
In its opinion regarding the reasonable method of indicating the connection speed of internet access service, Traficom has specified how the speed should be indicated in the agreement.
Traficom monitors compliance with the Regulation
Traficom monitors that operators comply with the requirements imposed by the Regulation. Operators must treat internet traffic in accordance with the Regulation and provide the information required by the Regulation in their agreements.
If you have a reason to believe that your operator does not act in compliance with the EU Regulation, we recommend you to contact your operator to solve the situation. The operator’s website should contain instructions for making a complaint and information on the phases of the complaint process.
If the issue cannot be solved by contacting the operator and you believe that the provider of internet access services restricts traffic in breach of the Regulation, or the agreement does not contain all information required by the Regulation, you can contact Traficom.
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has published guidelines on the implementation of the net neutrality rules. Traficom follows these guidelines carefully in its monitoring measures. Read more about the guidelines (External link).
Operators’ contractual terms may not yet meet the requirements of the Regulation in every respect as operators have been waiting for the supervisory authorities’ policies on the application of the Regulation. The policies have been published at the end of August and during autumn 2016, Traficom will start examining how operators’ contractual terms conform to the requirements of the Regulation.
Contact other consumer authorities if necessary
If the quality or delivery method of internet access services does not conform to what was agreed or to legislation, you may have the right to request the operator to correct the problems in the service and claim compensation. However, Traficom does not handle any issues concerning the contract relationship between the operator and the customer or compensations. In such cases, you must contact the Consumer Advisory Service (External link) and Consumer Disputes Board (External link).