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Protests against the Net Neutrality violation in Germany

22 May, 2013

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: Proteste gegen die Verletzung der Netzneutralität in Deutschland

Internet activists in Germany demanded a free and open Internet on 16 May 2013, protesting in front of the annual general assembly of major German ISP Deutsche Telekom (DT). They criticized the company’s plans to slow down internet connections after a certain amount of traffic had been used. The worst part is that the company is violating the principle of net neutrality – internet services can buy their way out of those limits.

In April 2013, the former state-owned monopoly telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom AG announced plans to enforce traffic limits on their DSL customers. After transferring a certain amount of data, something like 75 gigabytes a month, DSL-connections would be slowed down to 384 Kbit/s instead of the original 16 Mbit/s. Imagine a car usually driving 50 km/h, but after driving for 1 000 km it is slowed down to 384 meters per hour – it’s functionality is broken.

Making matters even worse, DT also openly announced that internet companies could pay to be excluded from those customer limits. Which is already being done with the music streaming service Spotify: their traffic will not be counted for the customer limit – and Spotify will remain available at full speed even when its competitors are slowed down. The market leader is trying to kill the principle of net neutrality – that all bits are created equal.

Needless to say, this has created quite a stir in German media and among net activists. Together with many others, EDRi member Digitale Gesellschaft worked on stopping DT's plans and advocating for net neutrality. Active for two years already, the campaign site explains the concept of net neutrality and provides simple explanations on why it is essential to have a free and open internet.

When the plans were announced, activists shifted into full-fledged campaign mode, for example with calculating that with the new rules, DSL-connections would only work for a few hours a month with their advertised speed – and fall back to the digital stone-age for the rest of the month.

The highlights however were the protests on 16 May 2013, at the annual general assembly of DT in the German town of Cologne. An assembly of activists protested in front of the shareholder meeting with a massive 13.5 × 4.5m banner right above DT's welcome banner – a cooperation of Digitale Gesellschaft and Chaos Computer Club. The event was continued with a protest march through the city and a simultaneous online demonstration “occupying” DT website.

Activists have lately struggled to explain the abstract concept of net neutrality to the public. With unexpected support from the major ex-state ISP, the concept is now known to more people than ever. The free and open internet is in danger and DT must not succeed with their plans. Other countries like the Netherlands, Chile, Slovenia, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico have understood this – and passed laws enforcing a neutral net. Although the EU Commission has acknowledged its importance, it had failed to adequately regulate it. If the EU doesn’t do it, it is time for individual Member States to enshrine net neutrality into law.

Protect the free and open internet – enforce net neutrality! Drosselkom: Offline and Online-Protests against ISP Plans to slow down Internet Connections – and for Net Neutrality (16.05.2013)

Net Neutrality campaign website(only in German)

See how throttling the DT connection would affect your bandwidth (only in German)

(Contribution by Andre Meister - EDRi observer AK Zensur, Germany)



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