The zero-tariff services were ruled to break the EU’s net neutrality regulations, meaning changes could be required to the popular video products
Back in 2017, Deutsche Telekom launched an all-you-can-watch video service called ‘StreamOn’, allowing customers to access a range of video content without using their data. Not long after, Vodafone Germany soon followed suit, launching their own zero-tariff video services called Vodafone Passes.
The German regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA), quickly launched probes into both of these services, exploring whether they breached EU net neutrality and roaming rules. In short, the regulator needed to be assured by the operators that these services would abide by Europe’s ‘roam like home’ principle, under which charges for the service must be the same wherever the customer is in the EU, as well a net neutrality rules that prohibit the throttling of services depending on location.
These probes, however, launched a court battle in 2018, with the operators arguing that offering these services equally throughout the EU would encourage people outside of Germany to sign up for the services, increasing the strain on their networks and driving up costs.
Now, three years later, the courts have finally reached their conclusion, noting that these services do in fact breach the net neutrality and roaming regulations. In the ruling, the court said it had drawn “a distinction within internet traffic, by not counting towards the basic package traffic to partner applications.”
“Since those limitations on bandwidth, tethering or on use when roaming apply on account of the activation of the zero-tariff option, which is contrary to the regulation on open internet access, they are also incompatible with EU law,” read the filing.
How exactly the operators will respond to this ruling remains to be seen, but it is clear that adjustments will be required to these services if they are to fall in line with the regulations.
“In the interest of customers, Vodafone carefully designs its tariffs in accordance with the EU net-neutrality and roaming regulation,” said Vodafone in a statement.
Deutsche Telekom has yet to respond to the ruling, but will likely make similar changes.
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