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Fight Over Internet Filtering Has a Test Run in Europe

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Europe's influence over technology regulation has led U.S. companies to send lobbyists to try and influence European lawmakers as they debate Internet access policy. "The U.S. companies see the outcome of the fight in Europe as key," says Jeremie Zimmermann, a lobbyist for French Internet advocacy group La Quadrature du Net. "Each side is hoping to score points on the issue here so they can take it back to the [United States] to influence the outcome there."

Net neutrality is supported by free-speech advocates and Internet businesses that want to prevent network operators from filtering Internet traffic, but Internet service providers say that basic traffic management is needed to deal with the soaring demand for bandwidth. The outcome of the debate over net neutrality could affect whether consumers will continue to have access to unlimited bandwidth for downloads on a flat-rate plan, or if they will have to pay higher fees based on the amount of data they download.

European lawmakers are split on the issue. Much of the debate is taking place in Belgium, where lawmakers are close to making a decision and two committees are expected to vote on March 31 before the issue goes before Parliament on April 22. With more than 200 network operators in Europe, as opposed to the five major broadband and four cable operators in the United States, the danger that one operator could filter Internet traffic for commercial gain is rather low, says Liberty Global's Manuel Kohnstamm.

From The New York Times
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