German telco Deutsche Telekom wants to adjust its controversial zero-rating tariff option StreamOn to meet the requirements of the Federal Network Agency.
The bandwidth limit for video streaming would be lifted shortly, a Telekom spokesman told Broadband TV News. From the beginning of September 2019, the more than two million customers will also be able to use StreamOn within the EU countries. This will not lead to price increases for the StreamOn options, stressed the spokesman.
With this tariff adjustment, Deutsche Telekom is reacting to a decision by the Higher Administrative Court for the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to which the telco is not allowed to continue offering StreamOn in its current form. The court confirmed the first-instance decision of the Administrative Court of Cologne.
StreamOn is a free additional offer for Telekom’s mobile services customers. When booking, the data traffic for audio and video streaming from Telekom’s content partners is not offset against the data allowance contractually agreed in the mobile tariff.
For certain mobile rates, however, the customer agreed to a general bandwidth limit for video streaming of a maximum of 1.7 Mbit/s, which is no longer sufficient for resolution in HD quality. Moreover, StreamOn was only intended to be used within Germany. Data traffic for audio and video streaming abroad was always deducted from the data allowance.
The Federal Network Agency concluded that StreamOn violates the principle of net neutrality anchored in European law as well as European roaming regulations through these restrictions and prohibited the zero-rating service’s continuation in the current form.
The Administrative Court in Cologne rejected an appeal by Telekom against the regulator’s decision. In its ruling, the Higher Administrative Court dismissed Telekom’s complaint against the lower-instance court decision.
The judges explained that the principle of net neutrality obliges internet service providers to treat all data traffic equally. This is violated if the video streaming speed is deliberately throttled compared to other services or applications. Since the principle of neutrality protects a fundamental functional principle of the internet for the benefit of all users, it is also irrelevant whether the customer has agreed to the throttling by signing up for StreamOn.
Furthermore, under European roaming rules, it is prohibited to charge an additional fee for roaming services in other European countries compared to the domestic retail price. Telekom violated this prohibition as it deducts the data traffic for audio and video streaming for use in other European countries from the data allowance, in contrast to use in Germany, according to the regulator. This would result in a less favourable pricing structure for customers using the service in other European countries.
Following the decision of the Higher Administrative Court, Telekom confirmed to Broadband TV News that the telco intends to continue offering StreamOn – with the necessary adjustments which are now being implemented.