Twenty-five business associations are heaping pressure on the European Commission by protesting a recent decision from the German telecoms regulator on the country’s internet networks.
The group sent a letter to six EU commissioners today (21 April), two weeks before the Commission comes out with its verdict on the decision. The German telecoms regulator Bundesnetzagentur notified the Commission on 7 April about its new rules that will allow major operator Deutsche Telekom to exclusively use the controversial vectoring technology on copper networks.
Copies of the letter were sent separately to EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger, Vice-Presidents Andrus Ansip and Jyrki Katainen, Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová and Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska.
Deutsche Telekom has pushed to gain approval for the practice as a way to speed up internet connections for some customers.
But competing telecoms lobbied hard against the decision, which they say will choke off their access to wiring that connects directly to the most lucrative parts of broadband networks.
Oettinger in particular has come under pressure to act on the pending deal. EurActiv.com previously published letters sent to the German commissioner by 13 MEPs and by the minister for consumer protection in his home state of Baden-Württemberg demanding the EU executive reverse the vectoring decision.
One European Commission official close to the executive’s review of the file told EurActiv they were surprised by the bitter reaction against the German regulator’s approval for exclusive vectoring.
“It doesn’t happen every day that we receive a letter from MEPs on a regulatory draft,” the official said, calling the legislators’ appeal “probably a first”.
The executive will announce in two weeks whether it will approve the decision or raise “serious doubts” about its impact on the telecoms market. If the executive does raise doubts, Oettinger’s office would tack on a three-month extended inquiry into the regulation.
Among the associations urging Oettinger to block the decision are the Association of German Cities, the German Farmers’ Association, the German Retail Association (Handelsverband Deutschland) and a number of internet associations, including ECTA, the European umbrella organisation representing competing telecoms operators.
The associations called the telecoms decision “a political landmark decision which will have such a far-reaching impact on Germany so that politics has to meet its regulatory and infrastructural responsibility.”
“Granting the right of an extensive technological monopoly for the very first time will hinder billions of investments to flow to Germany due to a lack of competition for investments,” their letter reads.
A spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom said in a statement shared with EurActiv, “Neither is vectoring hindering competition nor the rollout of fibre to the home. Politicians shouldn’t be mislead. This is not a debate over fibre versus copper. We are the biggest fibre investor in Germany.”
The European Commission announced as part of its digital single market plans that it would propose telecoms legislation in 2016, likely after the summer. The Commission's public consultation on regulation of the telecoms sector ended in December 2015.
The upcoming reform is expected to affect investment in telecoms networks, access to networks and competition with internet services like Skype and Whatsapp. Big incumbent telecoms companies argue those services aren't regulated as rigorously--and they demand a 'level playing field'.
In November 2015, the German national telecoms regulator approved a request by Deutsche Telekom to use the controversial vectoring technology to deliver highspeed broadband, which competing companies say will crowd out their access to networks. The European Commission was notified about the decision on 7 April 2016, and will then issue its own decision about whether the deal breaks EU law.
- 7 April 2016: Bundesnetzagentur notified European Commission about its decision to allow vectoring. The Commission has one month to respond with its own decision.
- German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy: German position on the EU telecoms review (March 2016)
- European Commission: results from public consultation on the telecoms framework review (March 2016)
- European Commission: overview of telecoms rules