NMHH takes another decision to protect net neutrality

Published: 23 September 2019

In August, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) required Magyar Telekom Nyrt. to comply with net neutrality rules due to restricting internet access and devices for two of their mobile data plans, “Net Korlátlan” (Net Unlimited) and “Korlátlan Net” (Unlimited Net). To protect consumers, the NMHH regularly monitors operators to verify that they comply with rules on open internet access.

The NMHH conducted an administrative procedure for suspected non-compliance with net neutrality rules with regard to Telekom’s mobile data plans “Net Korlátlan” and “Korlátlan Net”. The operator discontinued the former back in the spring, however it is still available to its contracted customers, while, at the same time, launching a new plan called “Korlátlan Net” with unchanged terms and conditions from the discontinued tariff plan.

Both plans promise unlimited domestic internet access, but throttled certain types of traffic to significantly slower speeds than those offered by the plan, citing security reasons, thereby discriminating against some of the traffic and applications. Traffic concerned by such discriminatory practices includes P2P (peer-to-peer; a network service where the computers of the users involved are interconnected through peer-to-peer connections without using servers. Representative applications include file sharing networks, but it is also a part of how, for example, Skype works) and VPN (Virtual Private Network, a private connection virtually created on the public internet, providing an encrypted and secure channel between two or more network endpoints). Another issue was that the operator limited the free choice of device by only allowing SIM cards included in the two tariff plans to be used in mobile phones and not in, for instance, tablets or laptops.

In its decision of 28 August, the authority required the operator to comply with the rules laid down in the Regulation on open internet access (TSM Regulation) when applying traffic management to tariff plans and enable subscribers to use their SIM cards in the terminal equipment of their choice. In its appeal, the operator contested the conclusions and obligation in relation to the peer-to-peer traffic type.

The authority has acted on a number of occasions to protect net neutrality; previously, it conducted procedures concerning the Telekom TV and HBO GO services as well as the MyChat and MyMusic plans by Telenor.

Why is net neutrality important?

EU regulations require operators to treat all traffic equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, ensuring equal treatment; furthermore, operators may only apply reasonable, temporary traffic management measures that are transparent, non-discriminatory, proportionate and not based on commercial considerations. The Regulation also provides that end-users may have a free choice of terminal equipment for using the service.

Preserving net neutrality is key to ensuring that subscribers have non-discriminatory access to any content and information of their choice and not that of ISPs or third parties, and disseminate such content and information freely on the internet without having any restrictions imposed on them with no legitimate reason.