The European Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed support for the European Union’s net neutrality rules, which require telecom operators to treat all Internet traffic equally, which has dealt a blow to the telecom industry that wants to reduce restrictions.

This rule was adopted in 2015 and has received strong support from large technology companies and consumer groups to prevent telecom operators from blocking or slowing down traffic, or providing fast access to charges.

Telecom operators have been seeking lenient regulations to allow them to increase revenue from specialized services, such as the connectivity of driverless cars and Internet-connected devices, to make up for the decline in revenue from traditional telephone services.

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) based in Luxembourg supported the principle of open internet in its first ruling on this subject.

“The requirement to protect the rights of Internet users and to process traffic in a non-discriminatory manner prevents Internet access providers from using software packages to enable certain applications and services to benefit from “zero tariffs” and to support certain applications by benefiting software packages Apps and services. The use of other apps and services is subject to measures that block or slow down traffic,” the judge said.

After the Hungarian court had sought guidance in a case involving Telenor Magyarorszag, the Hungarian mobile telecommunications operator, the European Court of Justice issued its judgment. Hungarian companies offer discounts or so-called zero-tariff access packages to their customers, which means that the use of certain applications is not counted as consumption.

The Hungarian National Media and Infocommunications Authority stated in two decisions in 2017 that the company violated EU net neutrality regulations and ordered the cancellation of the offer.

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Telenor Magyarorszag, a subsidiary of the Czech investment group PPF, challenged the ruling in a Hungarian court. The company stated that the judgment of the European Court of Justice will not affect its business because it has complied with Hungary’s regulatory decision.

The company said in a statement: “This means that Telenor will not distinguish the speed of online music streaming services and messaging services from any other types of data traffic (MyChat and MyMusic) in the plans discussed.”

The case has attracted the attention of Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Romania, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, which have submitted comments to the European Court of Justice.

Three years ago, the United States abolished its landmark net neutrality rules and gave Internet providers the power to mop up. As long as they disclose changes, they can reshape how Americans use the Internet.

The European Court of Justice cases are C-807/18 Telenor Magyarorszag and C-39/19 Telenor Magyarorszag.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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