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Safeguarding net neutrality: A1 required to modify Free Stream option

A1 Telekom Austria AG (A1) offers customers a rate option called Free Stream, which includes in the package price data volumes downloaded from specified streaming services. The product was the subject of a review by the Telekom-Control-Kommission (TKK).

The results

A1 may continue to offer Free Stream. The product does not directly breach the EU Net Neutrality Regulation. A1 is, however, required to modify the terms of ‘traffic shaping’.

Up to now, A1 has limited the speed of services streamed under the Free Stream option. As a result, users had only little bandwidth for videos, which at times could be viewed only at low resolution. However, this arrangement results in poorer service for users and as such represents a breach of the EU Net Neutrality Regulation. The Regulation specifically prohibits any such traffic management measures that have a detrimental impact on data streaming to end users.

“The TKK decision is not only in the interests of consumers,” RTR Managing Director Johannes Gungl explained. “It additionally safeguards products offered by streaming providers in the long term. After all, why should a platform capable of delivering high-resolution video not be allowed to do so?”

Fully in line with other European regulatory authorities

‘Zero rating’, while also a feature of Free Stream, was not a subject of the TKK decision. The EU Net Neutrality Regulation does not explicitly prohibit telecoms from exempting the data traffic for specified services from the data package to which the customer subscribes. Rather, this practice is permitted within certain limits.

“Monitoring compliance with the rules set forth in the EU Net Neutrality Regulation is a key responsibility of national regulatory authorities,” telecom regulator Johannes Gungl noted. “With this decision, the TKK is in line with regulatory authorities in other Member States.”

The official decision can be viewed on the RTR website:

What is the TKK and what are its responsibilities?

Whereas telephone and data lines and mobile telecommunications frequencies are limited, the telecommunications market is open for competition from anyone. The Telekom-Control-Kommission was established through the 1997 Telecommunications Act, to ensure that the limited resources are distributed fairly and competition remains viable in the long term. The TKK is an independent commission composed of three members, appointed by the federal government for a five-year term. The commission is chaired by a judge. In their activities, the members of the TKK are supported by a team of experts at the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR).