On 27 October, the German regulator (BNetZA) hosted an international conference in Bonn opening a dialogue about the relationship between telecommunication network operators and providers such as Google and Facebook who render their services "over-the-top" (OTT).
"In designing the regulatory framework a balance must be kept between the obligations of OTT service providers and those providing traditional telecommunications services. At the same time it must be clear that every company has a right to a reliable and consistent legal framework that will provide a stable basis for long-term investment decisions," said Jochen Homann, Bundesnetzagentur President, to an audience comprising representatives from industry, politics, the sciences and other European regulators.
Services that are provided "over-the-top" rely on a service providing internet access. On the one hand, OTT services and demand for high-transmission-rate broadband connections depend on each other but, on the other, OTT services are in competition with traditional telecommunication services such as telephony and text messaging. With a view to revising the European regulatory framework for the telecommunications sector (telecoms review), the issue of how to deal with these new players is taking on a more central aspect.
The conflict of interests between OTT services and the services offered by the telecommunications companies raises the question as to how the future regulatory framework should be organised. It is important to the discussion that a clear distinction is made between questions of traditional market regulation for the purposes of access and price regulation and issues such as data protection, data security, transparency and consumer protection.
More information on the conference is available here.