World Wide Web founder disses Europe's new Internet rules

Net neutrality explained, once & for all
Net neutrality explained, once & for all

Critics are warning that new Web rules that regulate the flow of online content in Europe are threatening everything from free speech to innovation.

The man credited with inventing the World Wide Web -- Tim Berners-Lee -- was among a number of high-profile critics speaking out against the rules. Those critics included Netflix (NFLX) and Etsy (ETSY).

"These rules will threaten innovation, free speech and privacy, and compromise Europe's ability to lead in the digital economy," Berners-Lee wrote in an online statement before the laws were approved Tuesday.

European officials countered the critics, saying the rules across all 28 nations in the European Union will "guarantee an open Internet" where everyone has equal access to online content.

Europe said it has created "net neutrality" rules that ensure all content is treated equally and there's no "fast" or "slow" lanes for certain types of online content. However, some specific types of content such as critical healthcare data, could be granted special rights to ensure it always operates smoothly.

This is the first time the European Union has created rules to regulate the flow of online content. The laws goes into effect immediately, replacing a patchwork of rules that were previously set by individual countries.

In the U.S., similar net neutrality rules went into effect in June. But critics say the European rules are "weak and unclear" and have loopholes that could create an "uneven playing field."

For example, they worry that a start-up website may face additional disadvantages as it competes against an industry titan. They also worry that Internet service providers could use the loopholes to throttle the flow of information.

The European Union maintains that these worries are unfounded.

The net neutrality laws were introduced alongside new rules that will abolish cellphone roaming charges for Europeans by June 2017.

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