The Administrative Court of Cologne has confirmed the decision by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) that some aspects of Deutsche Telekom’s zero-rating service StreamOn violate roaming and net neutrality laws and are therefore inadmissible.
The judges rejected the telco’s application against the authority’s order to prohibit StreamOn in its current form.
StreamOn, which can be booked free of charge, is an additional offer for certain Telekom mobile tariff customers in which data volumes generated when using the audio and video streaming services of so-called content partners are not reducing the tariffs’ data allowances. However, this only applies to usage in Germany. If a customer uses StreamOn in other EU countries, it will decrease the data volume included in the tariff.
When signing up for StreamOn, the customer also agrees in certain tariffs that the bandwidth for streaming services will be reduced to a maximum of 1.7Mbps. This is not sufficient for streaming in HD quality.
According to BNetzA, StreamOn violates the principle of net neutrality stipulated in European law and European roaming regulations. The regulator has therefore prohibited the continuation of the zero-rating service in its current form in December 2017. Telekom’s subsequently lodged appeal against this decision has now remained unsuccessful.
The court explained that the principle of net neutrality requires providers of internet access services, such as Telekom, to treat all traffic equally. This is infringed by reducing the bandwidth for streaming services. This restriction is also not at the customer’s disposal, so that it is irrelevant whether the customer accepts the restriction voluntarily by concluding a contract.
In addition, the current design is also not in line with European roaming regulations according to which no additional charges compared to domestic retail prices can be charged for roaming services in other EU countries. By excluding the deduction of the streamed data volume from the respective data allowances only in the case of domestic use, Telekom is not complying with this rule.
An appeal can be lodged against the decision of the Administrative Court of Cologne, which would then be reviewed by the Higher Administrative Court in Münster.
Telekom intends to continue the legal dispute. “The court decision has no direct effect on our StreamOn offer. In the interest of our customers, we will continue to make use of all legal possibilities so that StreamOn can continue to be offered,” a Telekom spokesman told Broadband TV News. “The termination of StreamOn would be a major disadvantage for our more than 1.7 million customers and over 350 content partners.”