December 2017 The United States cleared the way for a two-tier network. Data whose value is higher is transmitted faster through the information superhighway than those classified as less important. The end of net neutrality, which claims that all data are the same, has become history in the United States. Fears that in the European Union it is possible to take this path did not seem to be justified, at least for Austria. From the point of view of net neutrality, that is, equal treatment of all information providers on the Internet, Austria is even relatively successful. But the situation is not so rosy in other EU member states.
This is evidenced by a study by the NGO epicenter.works, prepared with the support of the Vienna Labor Chamber. Two and a half years after the EU Regulation came into force, net neutrality became an indefinite term in EU countries.
First of all, a zero rating would repeatedly undermine the legal obligation of non-discriminatory access to the Internet, which is the key finding of the study.
Most of the benefits of Internet access (especially when using a mobile phone) provide a reduction in speed from a certain amount of data consumed. A zero rating excludes certain services from the volume calculation for this regulation. For example, Austrian mobile operators offer music or video services that are unpaid in terms of data. If you are using another service, you must allow the counting of stream data to your quota. In the first bill, this “zero rating” was still banned, but then was removed.
According to the study, there are only two EU countries, namely Finland and Bulgaria, where a zero rating is no longer the usual practice. In addition, only three of the 20 leading suppliers that receive a zero rating are not based in the United States, explains study author Thomas Lochner from epicenter.works. This is problematic because it creates barriers to entry into the market, especially for new and smaller suppliers.
As a result, "any startup that wants to succeed will have to sign a contract with hundreds of Internet service providers in Europe so that they are as accessible as the major ones." And this is poison for innovation"warns Lohninger.
Zero rating negatively influences price dynamics.
The study also shows that a zero rating leads to a negative price trend, which makes mobile phones generally more expensive. For example, in 2015 and 2016, prices in these zero-rated markets rose by two percent. However, in those who do not have zero rating offers, prices for both years fell by eight percent.
For Lohninger, the practice of zero rating means a clear violation of net neutrality, which must be stopped in accordance with EU rules.
Even AK advocate Daniela Zimmer warns of allegedly attractive zero-rated offers. The consumer must increasingly realize that it is increasing market concentration, the variety of products is declining and, ultimately, due to the superiority of Internet companies in the long run with rising prices, she said. However, this does not contribute to the complexity of individual sentences.
In general, uniform standards should be established here, since operators should simply and clearly inform their customers about their offer and possible consequences for the quality of service and their confidentiality, Zimmer said.
RTR in Austria is an example
Compared to other EU countries, the study gives Austria a relatively good report. Austria was "very positive in terms of net neutrality," Lonninger said. Telecommunications regulator RTR operates in this area, especially exemplary, and cooperates intensively at the international level, according to the study.
In addition, the Austrian regulator also responds very quickly: the procedure initiated by RTR against the mobile radio operator A1 and its “free flow” proposal was completed within one month. A similar procedure in Germany took nine months, explained Löninger.
However, the study leads to a negative result in terms of fiber optic expansion. Here Austria was still last in Europe, he complained.