In Belgium, net neutrality is regulated under Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015 laying down (among other things) measures concerning open internet access.
Within the framework of the application of these rules, BIPT takes as much as possible account of the BEREC Guidelines on the implementation by national regulators of European net neutrality rules.
BIPT has drafted additional national guidelines for the provision of “unlimited” Internet.
The obligations arising from the Act of 13 June 2005 on electronic communications concerning contractual information, transparency and quality of service remain applicable after the coming into force of the European regulation, in particular parts of Articles 108, 111 and 113 of the ECA. For more details, see point 5 of the BIPT communication of 21 April 2016.
Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 and the BEREC Guidelines allow sometimes room to take national implementing decisions.
BIPT has already taken an implementation decision regarding the communication of the speed of the internet and volume included in the contracts within the framework of a fixed or mobile broadband connection. See the Decision of 2 May 2017 regarding the communication of the speed of a fixed or mobile broadband connection.
According to the European regulation, this information must also be published on the website of the operator.
The information communicated to the subscriber prior to the conclusion of the contract and which is incorporated into the contract when concluding it shall be communicated to BIPT at least once a year (on 15 June at the latest) according to the terms set out in the decision.
Since the entry into force of the European regulation on 30 April 2016, BIPT has published the following annual reports concerning the monitoring of the observance of the net neutrality regulation and its findings regarding an open internet in Belgium:
In three judgments of 2 September 2021 the Court of Justice ruled that ‘zero-rating’ tariff options are contrary to the general obligation laid down in Regulation 2015/2120 to treat traffic equally, without discrimination or interference.
These judgments drive BEREC to review its Guidelines regarding zero-rating.
As a result, the practice whereby an ISP does not charge for the data traffic of a certain application, or charges it differently compared to data traffic of other applications (e.g. no charging for Spotify traffic but he does charge for other audio streaming services such as Deezer, Apple Music, ...) is now prohibited. The same applies when an ISP does not charge for the data traffic of a category of specific applications or charges it differently.
By contrast, what is still possible for instance are offers where data traffic during a certain period (e.g. during weekends or off-peak hours or e.g. a number of hours per month) is not charged or charged differently from other periods.
It is also allowed for an ISP to apply zero-rating when he has to comply with legislation or measures of public authorities laid down in the exceptions of the Regulation. In that case the zero-rating has a legal foundation.
Monitoring the traffic management measures
BIPT monitored the information ISPs give to their customers concerning their Internet traffic management for the first time in 2015.
The monitoring report also gives more information on the connection between Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 and the Act of 13 June 2005 on electronic communications.