The debate about net neutrality in Germany is not a new one. But it has reached a peak because the Deutsche Telekom announced that it will introduce a new tariff structure (link in German). So far, so boring.
What’s the matter? Why is net neutrality in Germany in danger?
First of all, the Deutsche Telekom supplies more than 12 million clients (link in German) in Germany with broadband Internet access. If the company will change its tariff structure a good deal of the German population will be affected. Now the Telekom’s plan is to introduce a new tariff for broadband internet access very similar to what we already know from mobile phones. Most of the mobile phone subscribers have a contract with a certain data volume. If this data volume is exceeded you have to pay for a supplementary service in order to use high-speed Internet. If not, the speed of your Internet connection will be heavily reduced.
So what, those who pay more get a better service. Isn’t this the bottom line of a service economy?
Well, in this case only partly. The Deutsche Telekom is not only a company that provides the infrastructure. The Telekom itself provides content as well. Its own platform Entertain makes dozens of TV channels as well as Video on Demand services available. These services won’t be deducted from the data volume. There will also be so-called managed services, which means that some content providers pay the Telekom for a preferrential transmission of their content. The result will be that big players will definitely be at an advantage because they can pay the infrastructure providers like the Telekom. But what about smaller, innovative and new companies? They could be the losers (besides the customers) in this game.
Is it only about money?
No. It’s also about data protection and privay. The Telekom only knows which service they want to favour if they scan the content. This means that every data package has to be checked in order to find out who is the sender, who is the addressee and what’s the content. Just try to imagine what an outcry it would cause if parcel services would control every parcel they deliver (if you speak German you should read this great blogpost. It explains the similarity between controlling data packages and „real“ packages).
According to Wikipedia net neutrality „is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication“. This principle will be broken if the Telekom will really implement what it has announced yesterday. It seems like there is only a small chance to stop this if Telekom’s customers send a signal that they will change their Internet provider. This could also prevent other providers from implementing similar tariff structures. Unfortunately the German government is not willing to pass a law that secures net neutrality in Germany.