After Net Neutrality, Device Neutrality

Posted in News at 04.12.2017

Summary
In Italy the first european “Device Neutrality” law has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies but then, after Apple started lobbying against it, the Government is willingful delaying the Senate Vote.

This is our public statement and contribution to EU Commission TRIS.

About Device Neutrality
In Italy, first country in Europe, a proposed law already approved by the Chamber, gives citizens the right to use the software they want on their own devices and to remove the software they don’t want.

Device Neutrality law ensures the users have a right of non discrimination of the services/apps they use based on platform control by hardware companies, likewise Net neutrality ensures the users have a right of non discrimination of their communications based on network control by telcos.

This is a fundamental civil rights issue as it ensures that the user have the right and possibility to use, for example, the information and communication security tools they prefer on their devices.

Android based devices let end-user install software outside of Google play app store with documented procedure, while Apple forbids it.

The proposed law is not a technical measure but a consumer protection rule which enables citizens to turn to the market protection authority to assess whether a limitation of their right to use the app they want is an aggressive or deceptive commercial practice under currently existing laws.

The good
The Chamber of Deputies approved with unanimity the bill proposal, that then reached the Senate where it was approved by all committees with no amendments, so it moved to the Senate assembly floor to be voted in June and was delayed ever since.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) issued a public support of the Device Neutrality bill proposal, as a natural extension of Net Neutrality rights.

The Chamber of Deputy Commission invited all stakeholder possibly impacted by this proposal for a public hearing.

Most of the biggest technology international companies come and gave their favourable opinions:

While all others major tech giants participated to the public hearing, Apple didn’t participated neither filed a written position, but went silently lobbying.

The bad
Device manufacturers, like Apple, don’t like Device Neutrality.

Specifically Apple, after the bill proposal has been unanimously approved at the Chamber of Deputies, started lobbying hard in order to stop it, deploying a large amount of economic and political resources.

A fact: the Italian Government always declared itself in favour of that bill proposal, like the Chamber’s Commission voted for it and Senators are ready to vote it.

But on the week of 21th June 2017, the Apple’s EU registered Lobbyist Miss. Elisa Molino went to Rome and, in just 2 days, the Government and notably Hon. Sergio Boccadutri, head of innovation of the majority political party, completely changed their idea (from strong supporters of the bill to a major opponent).

So the Government, first delayed the Senate votes multiple times, then, as a justification for further delaying the vote, invoked Brussels sending the bill for EU TRIS evaluation (Technical Regulation Information System), even though it is a consumer protection measure and not a technical regulation.

The deadline for EU TRIS Contributions is 25/01/2018, obviously the Italian Government in the meantime melt-down.

The fight is hard, the opponents of the bill proposal also started spreading misinformation (Italian media saying “iPhone will be declared Illegal in Italy”), refusing to correct deceptive articles in the press, informant reported large quantities of Macbook, iPhone, iPad being made available to political influencers, industry lobbyist went challenging it with discourses going against the national interests.

The opportunity
It’s unbelievable to observe how such big companies can subvert the democratic order by influencing so much the policy makers in order to challenge Device Neutrality.

That’s an opportunity to inspire an EU policy, first applying it in Italy, to provide Device Neutrality rights to citizens and consumers.

We ask the Italian Government to immediately schedule the Senate voting of this Bill Proposal, without further delay, clearly influenced by Apple political interference.

We ask the EU Commission to:

  • reject TRIS evaluation, not being a technical regulation (our opinioni is that TRIS evaluation is results of lobbying the Italian Government to delay the proposed law)
  • appreciate the bill proposal, like most technology stakeholders are doing

Future Accountability Actions

We will issues FOIA to EU Commission in order to acquire and publish each and all Contributions that has been sent for the case number 498 (that have as deadline 25/01/2018) but that has not been published.

About the Law

The Law approved at the Chamber of Deputy waiting to be voted in Senate is named “S.2484 Disposizioni in materia di fornitura dei servizi della rete internet per la tutela della concorrenza e della libertà di accesso degli utenti” .

Article 4 is about Device Neutrality rights

Art. 4. (Free access to software, contents and services)

1. Users have the right to find online, in a format suitable to the desidered technology platform, and to use in fair and non-discriminatory ways software, proprietary or open source, contents and legitimate services of their choice. Users have the right to uninstall software and remove content that is not in their interest from their devices, unless such software is required by mandatory standards or essential for device operation or for the security of the device, of the public communication networks to which it is connected or of the data managed by the device. However, any uninstallation that allows the device to operate in violation of imperative norms is forbidden.

2. The rights referred to in comma 1 may not be limited or restricted to the purchase or use of certain software, content, or services, by platform managers through contractual, technological, economic or user-experience related tools, unless they are not covered by the cases mentioned in comma 1.