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EU parliament pushes through net neutrality law

The European Parliament on Thursday voted to move ahead with net neutrality legislation that would require Internet service providers to adhere to open Internet standards.

Lawmakers also voted to abolish retail roaming charges for voice, SMS, and data by 15 December 2015.

Net neutrality rules would not go into effect right away; the bill now moves to the Council of Ministers. But it's a big step in solidifying rules that have been struck down over in the US.

"Today's vote is a great step towards strengthening the telecommunications single market," Pilar del Castillo Vera, a member of the European Parliament representing Spain, said in a statement. "We have achieved further guarantees to maintain the openness of the Internet by ensuring that users can run and provide applications and services of their choice as well as reinforcing the Internet as a key driver of competitiveness, economic growth, jobs, social development and innovation."

European Parliament members said they want "clear rules to prevent Internet access providers from promoting some services at the expense of others." According to EU telecoms regulator BEREC, several European ISPs have blocked or slowed down Web-based services like Skype.

ISPs could still offer tiered service, like video on-demand and enterprise-level cloud services, "so long as these services are not supplied to 'the detriment of the availability or quality of Internet access services' offered to other companies or service suppliers," the EU said.

The only time any sort of blocking on slowdown of service would be permissible would be to enforce a court order, preserve network security, or prevent temporary network congestion. But these slowdowns must be uniform and not affect one service (like Netflix or BitTorrent) more than another and "not be maintained longer than necessary," the EU said.

EU net neutrality rules have been in the works since at least last year. In the U.S., a court found that the Federal Communications Commission does not have the authority to hand down net neutrality rules.

The EU has also been phasing out roaming charges for some time. Last summer, new mobile roaming limits went into effect, capping the price of data at 45 Euro cents per megabyte.

On 1 July 2014, data will drop to 20 cents per MB, while voice calls will cost no more than 19 cents to make, and 5 cents to receive; texts will run up to 6 cents per message.