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Bericht der Kommission zu Net Neutrality

Die EU-Kommission hat am Dienstag einen Bericht zum Thema Netzneutralität veröffentlicht. Es handelt sich nur um einen Bericht, der keine unmittelbaren Rechtswirkungen entfaltet. Allerdings gibt das Dokument einerseits einen guten Überblick über den Stand der Entwicklung auf EU-Ebene, namentlich beim TK-Richtlinienpaket. Andererseits macht die Kommission auch klar, wo sie sich selbst in dem Thema verortet.
Das Dokument ist insgesamt 10 Seiten lang. Es schließt allerdings mit einer „Conclusion”, die wir vollständig im Wortlaut dokumentieren:

The importance of maintaining the open internet, underlined in the Commission Declaration, received large endorsement in the public consultation and joint Commission-Parliament
summit. The Commission remains committed to this objective, and to ensuring that the maintenance of a robust best-efforts internet to which everyone has access.

The Commission is of the opinion that the rules on transparency, switching and quality of service that form part of the revised EU electronic communications framework should contribute to producing competitive outcomes.

Given that Member States are still transposing the revised EU electronic communications framework into national law, it is important to allow sufficient time for these provisions to be implemented and to see how they will operate in practice.

Moreover, as stated above the data obtained from the public consultation was incomplete or imprecise in many aspects that are essential to understand the current state of play in the European Union. For this reason, the Commission, with BEREC, is currently looking into a number of issues that surfaced in the course of the consultation process, in particular, barriers to switching (for example, after how long, on average, a customer is permitted to break a postpaid contract, and what if any are the penalties), practices of blocking, throttling and commercial practices with equivalent effect, transparency and quality of service as well as the competition issues relating to net neutrality (e.g. discriminatory practices by a dominant player).

In this regard, the Commission reserves its right to assess under Articles 101 and 102 of the TFEU any behaviour related to traffic management that may restrict or distort competition.

The way forward

The Commission will publish, by the end of the year, the evidence that will come to light from BEREC’s investigations, including any instance of blocking or throttling certain types of traffic.

On the basis of the evidence and the implementation of the telecom framework provisions, the Commission will decide, as a matter of priority, on the issue of additional guidance on net neutrality.

If significant and persistent problems are substantiated, and the system as a whole – comprising multiple operators – is not ensuring that consumers are easily able to access and distribute content, services and applications of their choice via a single internet subscription, the Commission will assess the need for more stringent measures to achieve competition and the choice consumers deserve. Transparency and ease of switching are key elements for consumers when choosing or changing internet service provider but they may not be adequate tools to deal with generalised restrictions of lawful services or applications.

Such additional measures may take the form of guidance or general legislative measures to enhance competition and consumer choice, such as by further facilitating consumer switching, or if this should prove to be insufficient, by for example imposing specific obligations regarding unjustified traffic differentiation on the internet applicable to all ISPs irrespective of market power. This could include the prohibition of the blocking of lawful services.

Net neutrality touches on a number of rights and principles enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, in particular the respect for private and family life, the protection of personal data and freedom of expression and information. For this reason, any legislative proposals in this area will be subject to an in-depth assessment of their impact on fundamental rights and of their compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

Any additional regulation should avoid deterring investment, or innovative business models, lead to a more efficient use of the networks and to creating new business opportunities at different levels of the internet value chain while preserving for consumers the advantages of a choice of internet access products tailored to their needs.

In parallel, the Commission will continue its dialogue with Member States and stakeholders to ensure the rapid development of broadband, which would reduce the pressure on data traffic.

Aufgeschoben ist nicht aufgehoben – so könnte man diese Mitteilung der Kommission zusammenfassen. Bezüglich einer netzneutralitätsbezogenen Regulierung bleibt es erst einmal bei den bisherigen Regeln im TK-Richtlinienpaket. Diese verfolgen einen sehr zurückhaltenden Ansatz: Staatliche Vorgaben zu Netzneutralität sind danach zwar möglich, stellen aber nur eine (verfahrenstechnisch schwer umsetzbare) ultima ratio dar. Hauptsächlich vertraut die Kommission auf den Wettbewerbsdruck von Seiten der Konsumenten. Dieser Druck wird zunächst durch bestimmte Regeln noch verstärkt; zum Beispiel durch Offenlegungspflichten oder die Einschränkung der Vertragslaufzeiten.

Dem Ansinnen, Netzneutralität künftig noch strikter einzufordern, will die Kommission damit aber noch keine Absage erteilen. Zunächst wird weiter untersucht und konsultiert – und wenn sich dann herausstellt, dass das „offene Internet” tatsächlich in Gefahr zu geraten droht, will sie erneut eingreifen. In diesem Punkt ist die Kommission nämlich eindeutig: Netzneutralität soll zumindest im Grundsatz gewährleistet bleiben.

Zur Mitteilung der Kommission (Englisch, PDF).

Besprechung bei

Prof. Holznagel bei Telemedicus zur Netzneutralität im deutschen TKG-Entwurf.

  • Dr. Simon Assion ist Mitgründer von Telemedicus und Rechtsanwalt bei Bird&Bird.

, Telemedicus v. 21.04.2011,

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