While Internet access policies may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Netherlands, the Dutch have made a major move in that direction. On Tuesday, the Dutch senate approved a net neutrality law, making them only the second country on Earth - Chile beat them to the punch - to issue such a move.
The move stemmed from an incident in 2011, when telecommunications provider KPN (News - Alert) brought forth a plan that said certain types of apps should use different kinds of data on a network, specifically the kind that costs more. KPN issued its annual report, as usual, and along with it a statement that said that data usage was the biggest challenge facing all telecommunications firms today, and KPN in particular, as more customers were using more apps, especially bandwidth-intensive third-party apps like Skype (News - Alert), WhatsApp, and a host of others.
KPN, sensing that its customers were bleeding it dry and that they were getting to the point where it was costing more to keep the customers in data than they were getting in bill payments, announced plans to make users pay extra to use the third-party apps over 3G networks. Needless to say, people were not happy with such an announcement, believing that data was data, and unsure of why should they pay more to access the data they were already paying to access.
KPN reconsidered in the face of growing consumer outrage. But the very idea was enough for both the First Chamber and the Second Chamber of the Dutch parliament to set a law into place that said that such moves were not only unbearable, but also illegal.
So with the ability to charge more for certain traffic now illegal in the Netherlands, KPN did the only thing left to it: it hiked the price of mobile data period. Where two years ago, a contract could be had with 100 minutes or text messages, as well as unlimited data at 384 Kbps for 10 euros a month, a contract with 100 minutes or text messages now boasts just 100 meg of data per month at 12 euros, but gives you the added bonus of two meg speeds. Though given the cap, it's got to be galling to have such an impressive rate of speed with which to slam into the data cap.
The underlying problem is one that's been facing mobile users since the advent of streaming video, possibly even as far back as streaming audio. People want access to the books they want to read, the music they want to hear, the TV shows and movies they want to watch, and require bandwidth to do so. Arguments involving words like "intellectual property" and "channel management" and "data congestion" fall on ears that are, if not deaf outright, at least hard of hearing.
But mobile providers - indeed, all Internet providers- face the same issues. They can only put up so much bandwidth in general without building more infrastructure. Infrastructure is an expensive prospect. Developments are working to change that, but it doesn't negate the expense right now, nor does it negate the demand, which swells by the day for things like VoIP, and streaming content.
The issue is a complex one: providers have the right to make profit, as is the case in most any industry that isn't outright illegal, while consumers have their own expectations. Fixing this problem is an issue that will take time, technological innovation, and a renaissance in the way we all think of the Internet.