The Greens tabled an amendment requiring ISPs to ensure that subscribers can send and receive any form of content. We do recognise that in some extreme circumstances it might be necessary for ISPs to take action to preserve the integrity and security of the networks, but argue that this provision must relate only to network management, i.e. restrictions intended to avoid degradation or slowing of traffic in networks.
The compromise legislative text does state that ISPs do not have the right to monitor or block traffic on the internet. However, elsewhere it is made clear that the public should be informed about any activities that are unlawful. Jean has serious concerns about the way this aspect of the legislation could be interpreted. She does not believe that this dichotomy of lawful and unlawful activity fully takes account of issues such as purpose and proportionality. To elaborate, Jean does not agree with tarnishing all users with the same stroke, if some are sharing files with peers and whereas others are contributing to the production and distribution of pirated material for profit. Moreover, the proportionality issue here is similar, in that the volume of unlawful activity is not considered and all users accused of copyright infringement may be subject to penalties through the 'Three Strikes Out' system. Out of principle, Jean does not agree with this system, as it assigns fixed punishments to those accused on an automatic basis without considering individual aspects of each case. She strongly believes that this development can be dangerous and result in abuse of power by ISPs, as they would be able to deny internet access to users by means of monitoring their activities and thereby invading users' privacy. Thus, as you can see, Jean is concerned that the proposed text requires clarification through the removal of the vague and dangerous concept of "lawful", as it does not belong in the Telecoms package, and that ISPs are not allocated too much power in order to maintain real net neutrality.
Jean's Green colleague, Caroline Lucas, sits on the International Trade Committee, which has debated issues such as file sharing and the fact that stealing a television, for example, is very different to ‘stealing’ a film from the internet, because the latter does not deprive others in the same way. She believes that alternative ways to support artists, writers and so forth must be developed alongside a far more open policy of sharing music, film, software etc via the internet. This has relevance to the Telecom vote and the Green Group will be urgently discussing whether to support the Directive when it comes to plenary after the summer recess.
The Greens submitted successful amendments that require ISPs to provide annual information to subscribers about more competitive tariffs and that promote an overall maximum contract period of 24 months, with a 12 month maximum always offered. The main thrust of the Directive is to open the telecommunications market to competition and Greens have supported measures to separate the ownership of telecoms infrastructure and service provision, as we argue this is the only way to guarantee any benefit to customers.
Regarding due process, Jean is confident that this Directive has been, and will continue to be, subject to proper scrutiny. Green MEPs have been actively following its progress since the Commission’s proposals were first published in 2007 and the text has been the subject of focused work in committee since April of this year. It is now likely to come before plenary in September after the parliamentary recess.
Please be assured that when some members of the Culture and Education Committee sought to give ISPs a policing role in previous legislation, these efforts were rigorously and successfully resisted by Green MEPs. We were also at the forefront of the campaign to oppose software patenting and won support from the Parliament – see http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Green views on the Telecom Directive do vary but are in favour of the maximum free flow of information and ideas on the internet and against any indiscriminate restriction of the use of the web.
Once again, thank you for raising this issue with Jean and please rest assured that she will use every available opportunity to promote net neutrality and the protection of privacy and data.