Our new rules will make things better, not worse. We are providing clarity on the division of responsibilities, laying down clear rules for telecommunications companies, and imposing specific obligations on supervisory authorities. As a result, every internet user – but also every start-up – will be in a better position than today.
To avoid misunderstandings, I would like to clarify what will and will not be authorised by the EU legislator.
Even up to now, ‘special services’ have been available in Germany and other EU Member States. For example, when internet providers provide a TV package, the customer is usually guaranteed a consistent quality of service.
This may lead – and has actually led – to other internet users being put at a disadvantage, because their internet is slower.
Similarly, internet providers have blocked certain applications for customers or made them slower – especially when those applications are competing with the providers' own services. For instance, Skype has been blocked, as using it to make phone calls does not generate any revenues for telecommunications companies.
According to a report by BEREC, the umbrella organisation for national supervisory authorities, between 21 % and 36 % of internet users in 2012 alone had that very experience: either certain services were blocked or their internet had been slowed down.
The EU Regulation will set down the rights of internet users – and also the obligations of internet providers and regulatory authorities – in EU law for the first time.
Special services with guaranteed consistent transmission quality may only be offered ‘on top’. Internet providers will be prohibited from reducing the speed of the open internet for other users in order to provide special services.
As a result, national supervisory authorities will have to regularly monitor average speed, quality and traffic management on the open internet. Speed can be monitored using specific software or hardware. The German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) has already published reports about this.
Figuratively speaking, this is just like a camera installed on the motorway: you can see how much traffic there is and whether there are any jams.
Although supervisory authorities will not have to approve special services in advance, they will be obliged to carry out the above-mentioned checks, for which they will use specific software and hardware, as well as documents and information they may request from telecommunications companies. The authorities can and must impose sanctions if companies do not comply with the Regulation.
For internet providers this means that they will only be able to offer special services with consistent quality if they do not diminish the quality and speed of the internet. If there is insufficient capacity available, they will have to create more capacity or terminate the contract for special services. As a result, start-ups or other users will not actually be ‘forced’ to switch providers because their internet connection has become slower or their capacity has not been increased.
Start-ups, VOD providers and other users are free to choose whether they wish to use their services via the open internet as before or whether they would prefer to have a guarantee of quality. For most services, the transmission quality on the open internet is perfectly adequate.