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Lets get the European Commission back on track to end geoblocking

Last year the European Commission came out with a bold plan to end geoblocking in the EU. But now due to pressure from content industry lobbyists, they’re backing away from their ambitious plans.

Think back…way back to May 2015 when the European Commission (EC) put forward its Digital Single Market plan. One of the most exciting elements of the plan was that the Commission made clear its intention to end what they called “unjustified geoblocking.”

Geoblocking is the practice of losing access to online content based on where you live, and ignores the fact that the Internet has reformed distribution, and is easily the best content delivery technology available. But many pre-Internet players with outdated business models hope to block digital progress, and carve the Web into Cable TV 2.0.

It was never quite clear how the Commission would identify which instances of geoblocking were ‘unjustified,’ and which were A-Ok, but we were encouraged by this step in the right direction. In fact, Andrus Ansip, Vice President for the Digital Single Market has been quoted as saying:

...Deep in my heart I would like to say: I hate geoblocking.

Which is why we were so disappointed when the Commission recently watered down their original proposal to end geoblocking, and focussed instead on the issue of ‘portability’ or the ability of users to access content from their home countries when travelling or on vacation. A laudable goal, but hardly the overhaul we were hoping for.

And now it appears as though the Commission will be taking an even lighter touch, backing away entirely from its ambitious approach to ending unfair, anti-choice geoblocking practice, to the point where it’s now poised to gut even their own portability measures, stating that“non-economic services of general interest, transport services, audio-visual services, gambling activities, healthcare services and certain social services are excluded from the scope of this regulation.”

For those of you who don’t speak Commission, that means that YouTube, Netflix, and all the things you might actually want to bring with you on holiday won’t be included in even the modest portability regulations that we expect to see floated in the next two weeks. Heavy lobbying from Hollywood and its European counterparts seems to have ensured that the original proposals have been seriously watered down.

Bold steps? Hardly. And Internet users everywhere are starting to call out the Commission on their lacklustre vision. Consumer rights organization BEUC, and MEP Julia Reda have taken to the Web to gather support for the Commission’s original goal: an end to geoblocking.

And we’re planning to join them. Keep your eyes peeled for our next big campaign to fight back against this out-of-date practice that hamstrings the open Web.

Let’s get the European Commission back on track.

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