The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, or BEREC for short, is an agency that polices the telecommunications market.
Its goal is to contribute to the seamless functioning of the electronic communication networks and supervise the application of the EU regulations.
Recently, BEREC updated its net neutrality rules. It has now imposed a strict ban on zero-rating practices, which exempts specific applications from internet providers’ data caps.
BEREC’s crackdown on data cap exemptions
A document published by the regulatory body guided regional authorities to ensure compliance with the rules set in place to protect the fair treatment of traffic in the provision of Internet access services.
‘The ban applies whether the app pays to be included or not, closing a loophole in the graft guidelines,” said Law Professor at Stanford Barbara van Schewick.
BEREC was clear in its stance to ban zero-rating offers that benefit specific applications by excusing them from monthly data caps. Before this, BEREC’s guidelines did not expressly prohibit zero-rating programs.
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Hence, internet service providers took advantage of this and launched multiple programs of similar nature. This benefitted big names like Google, Apple, and Facebook; however, startups and companies of small magnitude suffered.
The step came as a reflex to a Court of Justice ruling in 2021 that stated zero-tariff options, which differentiate between types of internet traffic, violate Europe’s open internet rules. These rules necessitate equal treatment of traffic without any discrimination.
Regulations in the US
As Europe continues to grow its net neutrality command, the opposite can be said for the United States, which has not had federal rules on net neutrality since they were revoked under former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. It is unlikely that the FCC will re-impose such guidelines anytime soon.
The recent ban imposed by BEREC is similar to the one enforced in California. Internet providers in the US have finally let go of their attempts to ‘escape’ the law in the region after multiple losses in court. It is essential to mention here that California’s legislation on zero-rating is more rigid than the FCC rules repealed by Pai.