Germany’s Federal Network Agency has decided that Deutsche Telekom’s controversial zero-rating tariff option StreamOn violates net neutrality rules in some points.
In general, however, zero-rating services in which the usage of selected video and audio streaming services does not reduce the high-speed data volume integrated in consumers’ mobile phone tariffs, are permitted, according to the regulators.
The authority finds faults in details, for example that Telekom does not equally treat video and audio services when reducing the data rate and that StreamOn can’t be used in EU countries outside Germany which would violate roaming regulations.
Telekom now has to react within two weeks and remove the faults identified by the regulators. “We have received the letter from the authority. However, we do not share the authority’s legal position. It only applies its own very narrow interpretation of EU law in this case,” a Telekom spokesperson told Broadband TV News. “But we are pleased to note that the Federal Network Agency confirms our position that zero-rating is generally possible.”
Deutsche Telekom would stand for an open and free internet, affirmed the spokesman. “The important factor at StreamOn is: Every provider of music or video streaming can easily become a partner with us and the partners do not have to pay us. There is no discrimination.” StreamOn was attractive for consumers and streaming service providers, he added.
The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) is dissatisfied with the decision of the regulators. The consumer protectors had demanded a complete ban on Telekom’s tariff option. “The decision of the Federal Network Agency not to prohibit StreamOn and other zero-rating offers in principle is at the expense of the free internet. This will not only reduce the freedom of choice for consumers, but also competition between service providers,” VZBV chairman Klaus Müller criticised in Berlin.
Zero rating offers would create realities on the market that pave the way to a two-class internet and keep tariff prices high, said Müller. “The aim should be to obtain more integrated data volume for the monthly basic price, as it has been standard in many other EU countries for a long time.”