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Deutsche Telekom tweaks plan to bring in broadband data caps, throttling in 2016

Proposed data limits from Deutsche Telekom won't apply to company's own internet services, setting the stage for potential net neutrality disputes.
Written by Michael Filtz, Contributor on

Deutsche Telekom, Germany's largest telco, has adjusted its plan to introduce the country's first bandwidth limits on broadband packages, offering slightly higher speeds to customers that find their connections throttled.

Starting in 2016, the company plans to limit home broadband customers to a rate of 2Mbps after they have reached specific data limits, which start at 75GB for basic internet packages. When it debuted the plans last month, the telco had planned on throttling the speeds to 384Kbps, but increased the rates to 2Mbps last week in response to criticism from customers.

According to Deutsche Telekom, the new limits are due to an unsustainable growth in data usage, which is set to quadruple by 2016. "Continually higher bandwidth can't be financed with ever-lower prices," the company said.

According to the telco, most users will not be affected by the limits, since "on average, a customer today uses 15GB to 20GB" per month. Customers will be able to purchase upgrades if they do reach the limits (although the telco has not said what the fees for the upgrades will be.)

The plan is controversial because the bandwidth limits will not apply to Deutsche Telekom's own IPTV and voice services, potentially violating net neutrality principles.

German regulators have already expressed concern that Deutsche Telekom may begin charging other content providers for exemption from the limits: Andreas Mundt, the president of Germany's Bundeskartellamt (the federal competition regulation agency) recently told the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "If Deutsche Telekom wants to allow content providers to buy their way out of data throttling, this may have consequences for competition."

The Bundeskarellamt has not taken any regulatory action so far, but has requested that Deutsche Telekom clarify its plans for implementing the limits. Even so, the proposed data caps have already provoked a backlash among German consumers. Already, almost 200,000 people have signed a Change.org petition that calls for Deutsche Telekom to reconsider its plans to introduce the limits.

Germany's other main broadband providers — including 1and1 and Vodafone —have not announced any plans to implement such limits in the future. Deutsche Telekom operates about 45 percent of the country's broadband connections.

With the proposed bandwidth limits, Deutsche Telekom might be on course for a showdown with the European Commission, which has recently put forward plans to outlaw online throttling by 2015.

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