European Lawmakers Prepare to Vote on ‘Net Neutrality’

Vodafone gave Chris Herbert a package deal he found too tempting to turn down.To persuade Mr. Herbert, a 27-year-old conference organizer, to pay 50 percent more for his monthly cellphone contract, the British telecom giant threw in a free subscription to Spotify, the music streaming service.The bundled deal, giving Mr. Herbert access to both a high-speed digital network and consumer content, is the type of packaging at the core of a raging public policy debate in Europe over what types of services will be widely available and how much they will cost.”I talked myself into this,” said Mr. Herbert, a London resident who now pays the equivalent of $75 for his monthly cellphone subscription. In his case, he considers the much higher monthly rate an acceptable trade-off: He canceled his existing Spotify contract that had cost him an additional $16 a month. “With my new data plan, I’m streaming a lot more music than I ever did before.”The online habits of customers like Mr. Herbert, and their ability to pay, are the focus of digital policy legislation on which lawmakers from the European Union’s 28 member countries plan to vote Thursday in Brussels. A key part of the legislation is so-called net neutrality. The rules are meant to ensure equitable access to Internet’s pipelines for services like streaming music, on-demand television and cloud computing. The big questions are who pays for them, and how much.The proposed rules have drawn furious lobbying from telecommunications companies like Vodafone, Internet giants like Google and smaller players like Spotify, and advocacy groups on behalf of the European Union’s 500 million consumers.

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