EU rules on net neutrality

Is Net Neutrality, or at least the intent of it, being flouted via back doors in Ireland?  After seeing an advert this morning, I thought I should write something about it.

This morning I saw a sponsored advert on Instagram.  It was from Eir Mobile and it was aimed at the now defunct iD Mobile customers, hoping to get them to migrate to Eir.  In the text below the image it offered something that seemed to contravene the intent of the guidelines adopted by BEREC in August 2016 that “All Internet traffic must be treated equally”.

#BringGreatTogether Thinking of switching your mobile network provider? Move to eir billpay today and get unlimited YouTube and social networks, unlimited calls and texts AND 15GB of data. All for just €15 per month for the first 6 months on a 30 day plan (€10 per month for existing customers). Terms Apply.
Is Eir testing the limits of Net Neutrality?

It states:

“#BringGreatTogether Thinking of switching your mobile network provider? Move to eir billpay today and get unlimited YouTube and social networks, unlimited calls and texts AND 15GB of data. All for just €15 per month for the first 6 months on a 30 day plan (€10 per month for existing customers). Terms Apply.”

So what’s in those “Terms”?

Well, on their billpay website Eir state:

“How does the “Unlimited YouTube & social networks” work?

If you are on an eligible eir mobile plan, you will automatically get unlimited access to
YouTube (until 31st May 2018), as well as Social Networks and messaging to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Viber and WhatsApp. You will get unlimited access to all of these apps without eating into your data allowance.”

How does the “Unlimited YouTube & social networks” work? If you are on an eligible eir mobile plan, you will automatically get unlimited access to YouTube (until 31st May 2018), as well as Social Networks and messaging to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Viber and WhatsApp. You will get unlimited access to all of these apps without eating into your data allowance.
Is this promoting specific streaming video services and social media over other companies’ offerings?

Promotions Explained

Further down the page Eir have a section called “Promotions Explained”. Regarding the “Unlimited Social Data” they state:

Unlimited Social Data
On selected plans you can enjoy unlimited access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp & Viber Messaging and YouTube without eating into your data allowance. YouTube access for a limited time only 31/05/2018. Usage only in ROI and subject to fair use”

Promotions Explained Unlimited Social Data On selected plans you can enjoy unlimited access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp & Viber Messaging and YouTube without eating into your data allowance. YouTube access for a limited time only 31/05/2018. Usage only in ROI and subject to fair use
This seems to be actively promoting “free” (i.e. it doesn’t impact your data allowance) access to some services, while implying that you will be charged for using alternatives (like FaceTime, Skype, Vimeo etc).

So What’s The Problem?

Well, let’s ignore the very short term nature of this promotion and the fact that these services will doubtless eat into your data allowance after the deadline.  Instead, focus on the fact that certain streaming video and social media networks are being actively promoted – to the exclusion of others. If you use YouTube, you won’t get “charged” for your data usage, but if you use Vimeo presumably you will be.  If you use Snapchat or WhatsApp, you won’t eat into your data allowance, but if you use Skype or Apple FaceTime, one assumes that you will consume that allowance.

This strikes me as not at all Net Neutral.

Eir is a wholesale Internet carrier in Ireland. It is also a re-seller of landline services and a mobile Internet Service Provider (ISP).

The EU advocates open internet rules.

EU rules on net neutrality
EU rules on net neutrality

As it states on the Digital Single Market website:

“The rules enshrine the principle of net neutrality into EU law: no blocking or throttling or discrimination of online content, applications and services.”

What can we do about it?

I suppose it needs to be stated that Eir is probably not alone in trying this.  Other providers may well do the same.  As consumers all we can do is educate ourselves and if we feel strongly enough then talk to Ireland’s Communication Regulator (ComReg).

The world of broadband and mobile connections is always in a state of “Buyer Beware”.  The competition is fierce and the offers are often good at catching attention, while being even better at capturing revenue from YOU a few months after you end up in a contract.

If you are looking to switch mobile provider or are considering using mobile broadband, there is more to consider than the superficially attractive price.  Consider how strong the signal might be in the areas that you most use the phone (at home, work etc). Bundles often seem extremely appealing price wise, but the best provider of one service (e.g. TV), might be the worst provider for something else (like phone coverage or broadband).

If you want some impartial advice, call James at DeGeekIT on 0863804373!

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