Bitkom criticises internet neutrality proposals

The technology association, Bitkom, has criticised legislative proposals introducing internet neutrality which have been published by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

 © Benjamin-Duda-Fotolia

© Benjamin-Duda-Fotolia

Internet neutrality

The Federal Ministry is relying on § 41a of the German Telecommunications Act, which permits the German government to introduce secondary legislation ensuring a non-discriminatory transfer of data and access to the internet.

Bitkom director general, Dr Bernhard Rohleder, has criticised the legislative proposals for not doing the complex area of internet neutrality justice. He stated: “The proposal runs contrary to the German government’s broadband strategy, in so far as it massively harms those companies which are investing in the expansion of broadband.”

Internet neutrality vs differentiation

The general and far-reaching nature of the proposals could mean that network operators, service providers and content providers will be unable to differentiate between products and services using price and quality as indicators.

According to a Bitkom press release, different quality tiers are an unavoidable part of guaranteeing the high quality of current internet services and for innovative business models.

Bitkom points out that the European legal framework expressly permits the differentiation of products through price and quality.

As a result, Rohleder asserts that the proposed regulations in their current form represent a severe, unnecessary and counterproductive restriction to competition.

Best efforts principle

“The telecommunications branch emphatically abides to the “best effort principle” with regard to the transfer of data,” Rohleder claims.

Bitkom’s statement continues: “To guarantee seamless access to certain internet services, content providers and end users have to be able to purchase high quality content which is above the best effort threshold.”

Rohleder adds: “We are against discrimination in the provision of services and data, but we are very much in favour of differentiation.”

Regulation unnecessary

In Bitkom’s view, Germany’s existing strict competition and cartel regulatory framework provide sufficient basis to control business activity and to ensure legal certainty and stability for planning.

“In an open, non-discriminatory and intensely competitive broadband market, preventative regulatory measures are unnecessary,” Rohleder says.

Consumer associations support internet neutrality

The German Federation of Consumer Associations expressed its support for internet neutrality in a recent press release.

In a letter to the Ilse Aigner (Minister for Consumer Protection) and Philipp Rösler (Economics Minister), the federation called for “equality for all internet users”, and warned of the negative consequences of a “two tier internet”.

Rafaela Wilde ist Partnerin der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und beratende Justiziarin des Film- und Medienverbands NRW e. V. Sie vertritt bereits seit Jahren erfolgreich die Interessen von Film- und Fernsehproduzenten gegenüber der Landesregierung NRW, den Fernsehsendern und anderen Wirtschaftspartnern.

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