Net neutrality starts making waves on European shores

Germany’s telco regulator, Bundesnetzagentur, has weighed in on the net neutrality debate, registering its first victim: Deutsche Telekom’s StreamOn platform.

DT’s MagentaMobil tariff is the one under question, due to the zero rating policies in Germany and throughout Europe, as well as data throttling exercises put in place on certain customers. While StreamOn is violating European net neutrality rules, it is worth noting it is only certain policies and products. The platform will be allowed to continue, assuming adjustments are made to ensure compliance.

“Telekom can continue to offer StreamOn. But in the interest of consumers, adjustments have to be made to the arrangement,” said Jochen Homann, Bundesnetzagentur President. “StreamOn must comply with the roam like at home principle and video streaming must be available to customers without any restrictions on bandwidth. In the interest of customers, we are ensuring that StreamOn takes the requirements of roaming and of net neutrality into account.

“The obligation of non-discrimination is a cornerstone of the European rules on net neutrality. The non-discrimination principle has turned the internet into a driver of innovation. Having a diversity of applications and services benefits every consumer. A ban on restricting video streaming not only ensures the diversity of the internet but also puts providers of video streaming services that rely on higher resolution content on a firmer footing.”

There are two issues here which Bundesnetzagentur has picked up on. Firstly, DT’s practise of throttling video streaming on certain tariffs, and secondly, the difference in StreamOn’s zero rating policies throughout Europe compared to in Germany.

In terms of the tariffs, DT has been imposing video restrictions for customers who have either a ‘L’, ‘L Plus’, ‘L Premium’ or ‘L Plus Premium’ contract. European net neutrality rules state that all data traffic should be treated on a non-discrimination basis, therefore DT has been flouting the rules. In certain tariffs, throttling is done to such a degree, videos can only be streamed in SD, and no-one wants to watch a cat chase a laser pointer unless you can see the whiskers twitch.

Secondly, the roaming. When in Germany, certain tariffs all StreamOn on a zero rating basis, though using the platform elsewhere means eating into data bundles. Bundesnetzagentur has stated this is another direct violation of European net neutrality rules. Should DT want to zero rate StreamOn, it will have to zero rate it everywhere in the European Union.

DT has now accepted the violations and has revised terms and conditions. The telco now has until the end of March 2018 to implement the rectifications.

While net neutrality has been a hot topic over in the US, the debate has been a bit more low key in Europe. This is partly due to the options which the consumer has in comparison to the limited number of telcos in the US, though the idea of creating an information toll road, or intentionally throttling traffic on less lucrative contracts is one which regulators will keep a wary eye on.

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