24 April 2017
| James Pearce
Deutsche Telekom’s Dutch operation has been given permission to continue a free music package, after it won a net neutrality dispute in a court in Rotterdam.
The Dutch Authority for Consumer and Market had ordered
T-Mobile Netherlands to suspend its Datavrije Muziek service in
December, claiming it was in breach of Dutch net neutrality
laws because it was detrimental to competition with internet
The DCM threatened to impose a fine of €50,000 per day
until the operator closed the service if it failed to meet a
20-day deadline, however T-Mobile took the case to the courts.
It claimed T-Mobile’s offer was not in line with
an amendment made to 2012’s Telecommunications
Act, which introduced a complete ban on zero rating.
The Court of Rotterdam backed T-Mobile, saying the zero
rating service is allowed by European rules on net neutrality,
even laws in the Netherlands prohibit it. The court said the
European rules superseded those of at a state level.
The decision was hailed as a "breakthrough in the
Netherlands and in Europe" by T-Mobile CEO Soren Abildgaard,
according to NU.nl. Abildgaard, who joined from Telia Company
in January, claimed the ruling will give clarity to authorities
and telcos on how to deal with zero rating in the country.
He added: "Last October, we took a big and bold step to
reach a new and very innovative service, against the prevailing
belief in the established order, Datavrije Muziek. We firmly
believed that this is in the interests of our customers."
Net neutrality – the issue of making all internet
services equal - has been a topic of much debate within the
telecoms community. In the US, regulators initially introduced
strict rules to uphold the values of net neutrality, leading to
several lawsuits from operators including AT&T and Verizon.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who took the reins in January, has since
rode back from this position.
In Europe, the Burea of European Regulations for Electronic
Communications (BEREC) unveiled guidelines for regulators last
year which allowed for some forms of zero rating. The
implementation of these guidelines is still being tested, but
the Dutch court’s ruling could serve as an example
in other jurisdictions.