RTR sees itself as responsible for safeguarding the open internet in Austria. As demonstrated in the past, transparency and dialogue lead to success: often, a legally compliant solution can be found in agreement with those affected. Only few situations require official rulings. RTR's work to enable net neutrality are set out in detail in the new RTR Net Neutrality Report 2019. It covers the reporting period 1 May 2018 to 30 April 2019.
The Net Neutrality Regulation is a law passed by the European Union and implemented by the member states. Therefore, RTR regards not only the dialogue within Austria as important, but also the coordination with other regulatory authorities regarding the implementation. Many aspects of net neutrality cannot be sensibly resolved at national level or lead to divergent solutions or to barriers to entry and market distortions. "At the end of the day, the Internet should be innovative, secure and easy to use, as well as allowing fair competition between all stakeholders. RTR works to ensure that these principles are properly put into practice", says telecoms regulator Johannes Gungl.
Net neutrality enforcement in Austria focuses heavily on request-for-information procedures and the monitoring of suspected net neutrality violations. 16 operators of mobile and fixed Internet faced procedures during the reporting period. The alleged violations included port blockings, the availability of private IP addresses and the disconnection of IP connections.
The Telekom-Control Commission (TKK) initiated 14 supervisory proceedings in connection with website blockings and copyright infringements as the responsible authority during the year under review. 13 of them were completed during this period.
The main issue in question was how to handle piracy sites: operators may not block websites without a court order; otherwise, they violate the Net Neutrality Regulation. On the other side, however, authors of the media files may have obtained an injunctive relief against the illegal distribution. "Corresponding legal proceedings are time-consuming and costly for both sides, which is why the dialogue is important," says Gungl.
The Net Neutrality Regulation does not expressly prohibit the practice of not counting the use of certain services as part of the data volume included in the tariff and thus to give a commercial advantage to certain services. Any restrictions to the open Internet resulting from zero rating can be determined only ex-post and not when the service is launched. Therefore, ongoing monitoring is required with regard to the introduction of new tariffs, their distribution and their effects on the choice of end users and service providers. This year's Net Neutrality Report places a particular emphasis on this issue and presents the current situation of zero rating.
In addition to its monitoring activities, RTR conducted its own international zero rating study. The study examines the tariffs of 53 mobile network operators in 15 EU Member States over the period 2015-2018. It focuses on the effects of zero rating on the data volume included, the monthly prices and the prices per unit of data included. The results show that there is no simple directionality of zero rating. Although the number of zero-rated tariffs is increasing, yet at the same time, the included data volumes are also increasing.
"RTR is keenly interested in the wider context of the open internet and the international discourse about it," says Gungl. The Net Neutrality Regulation is primarily aimed at the data transport in the access networks of the Internet service providers (or providers). Beyond data transport, the possibilities end users and service providers have in using the Internet are also determined by upstream and downstream sectors.
In order to develop a better understanding of these sectors, RTR carried out the study "Report on the open internet: operating systems, apps and app stores". The findings show that two platform providers are dividing the mobile market into operating systems and app stores, that users are reluctant to change platforms due to established habits, and that app developers must accept numerous restrictions on the two major app stores to gain access to their customers to take.
RTR wants to maintain and further develop this broad perspective in order to ensure the innovative capability, security and usability of the Internet. "The studies on zero rating and apps and app stores are just the beginning. From now on, we will focus more on topics related to the open internet as well as restrictions imposed by platforms as a whole ", emphasises Gungl with a view to the future.
The Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) is wholly owned by the Republic of Austria. RTR’s core mandate is to promote competition in the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal markets as well as to achieve the goals set out in the KommAustria Act and the Telecommunications Act. RTR is headed by two managing directors and structured into two specialist divisions: the Media Division (Oliver Stribl), and the Telecommunications and Postal Services Division (Johannes Gungl). RTR also serves as an administrative agency, providing support to the Austrian Communications Authority (KommAustria), the Telekom-Control-Kommission (TKK) and the Post-Control-Kommission (PCK). With the funds under its administration, RTR supports projects in the broadcasting and media sectors. The two specialist divisions within RTR also offer alternative dispute resolution services, which can also be provided via its officially recognised consumer arbitration centres.
For more information, visit www.rtr.at