U.K. Government Willing To Block EU Net Neutrality Deal

The British government wants to keep its ability to block internet content.

A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, symbolic of the hacktivist group “Anonymous”, takes part in a protest in central Brussels January 28, 2012. Yves Herman / Reuters / Reuters

The British government will block the EU’s plan to guarantee net neutrality unless a key part of it is changed, BuzzFeed has learned.


The revelation comes a month after the European Parliament voted through legislation that would introduce net neutrality across the EU.

Net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally. In practice, this makes it more difficult to censor the internet and stops internet service providers from restricting access to data-heavy services such as NetFlix.

But the government has told BuzzFeed that it will not accept the legislation as it stands because the law would restrict the state’s ability to block access to sites.

“We wouldn’t support anything that restricted our ability to block illegal material,” a government spokesperson said. “We do not support any proposals that mean we cannot enforce our laws, including blocking child abuse images.”

The government says it is only concerned by the restrictions on web blocking, but in 2010 Conservative culture minister Ed Vaizey said he supported a two-speed internet to ensure the “smooth running” of networks – effectively ruling out net neutrality.

“We have got to continue to encourage the market to innovate and experiment with different business models and ways of providing consumers with what they want,” he said at the time. “This could include the evolution of a two-sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service.”

The UK, along with other members of the EU, has to sign off the legislation before it can become European law.

Vincent Kessler / Reuters

The EU’s original net neutrality proposals gave governments the freedom to restrict access to sites that broke domestic laws or were involved in “serious crimes”.

But left-wing MEPs amended the law to remove these provisions at the last minute. Instead governments will required to obtain a court order before they restrict internet traffic.

A European Commission spokesperson confirmed the parliament had “weakened” the power of individual nations to restrict access to illegal material.

Ed Vaizey said the UK would work to amend the legislation so that it does not introduce restrictions on the British government’s ability to police the internet.

“Let me clear that we will not agree to any proposals that restrict the ability of parents to protect their children from inappropriate content on line,” he said.

“We are confident that this was not the intention of the European Parliament and we are working with EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament to deliver a final package that promotes an open, safe and secure internet.”

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