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EU Lawmakers approve ‘net neutrality’ rules

LONDON — European lawmakers approved new rules Thursday aimed at guaranteeing equal access to the Internet and cutting cellphone charges across the 28-member European Union.

The proposals, which had been subject to intense lobbying by industry groups and consumer advocates, mirror similar efforts in the United States to allow access by all companies and individuals to the Internet’s pipelines for services like streaming music, on-demand television, and cloud computing.

A final endorsement of the rules will be left to the next European parliament, which will be elected next month. Individual countries also still would need to reach agreement with the Parliament and the European Commission on a reconciled version of the law, which may be changed in response to feedback from politicians and regulators.

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European politicians are trying to create a single market for electronic communications across the bloc.

That included last-minute amendments intended to provide a strict definition of so-called Net neutrality, which means telecommunications companies and other Internet service providers can’t discriminate between different services that run on their data networks.

The lawmakers also made it mandatory for mobile phone companies to comply with rules to phase out roaming costs when consumers use cellphones in other EU countries by the end of next year.

It’s part of a continuing debate over how to pay for the multibillion-euro investments needed to upgrade the Continent’s infrastructure. In the absence of clear rules, Europe has slipped behind the more advanced data networks of North America and Asia.

The vote provided extra protection for equal access to Europe’s mobile and fixed-line data networks, and was welcomed by advocacy groups.

“The EU seized the opportunity to secure users’ rights and protect innovation and freedom of expression online,” said Raegan MacDonald, at the consumer group Access.