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CJEU interprets net neutrality in dispute between Telenor, media authority

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that agreements, by which internet service "customers subscribe to a package combining a ‘zero tariff’ and measures blocking or slowing down the traffic linked to the use of ‘non-zero tariff’ services and applications, could limit the exercise of end-users’ rights and the fundamental principle of an open internet on a significant part of the market.

According to a report by state news wire MTI, CJEU took a stand on the matter after the Budapest High Court of Justice referred it for a preliminary ruling in a dispute between Hungarian internet service provider Telenor Magyarország and the Hungarian National Media and Telecom Authority (NMHH).

Telenor disputed two NMHH decisions in which the authority decided that two Telenor internet packages did not comply with the general obligation of equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic as laid down in EU regulations and that Telenor had to put an end to those measures. 

In the packages in question, data traffic generated by certain specific applications and services did not count towards the consumption of the data volume purchased by customers. In addition, once that volume of data had been used up, the customers could use those specific applications and services without restrictions, while measures blocking or slowing down data traffic were applied to other available applications and services.

The CJEU held that "where measures blocking or slowing down traffic are based not on objectively different technical quality of service requirements for specific categories of traffic, but on commercial considerations, those measures must in themselves be regarded as incompatible with Article 3 of the Regulation".

"Consequently, packages such as those the subject of review ... are, generally, liable to infringe both paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 3 of Regulation 2015/2120...", the press release concluded. 

The CJEU noted it does not decide the dispute itself and it is for the national court or tribunal to dispose of the case in accordance with the Court’s decision, which is similarly binding on other national courts or tribunals before which a similar issue is raised.

Telenor took notice of the CJEU decision with regret, the company said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that it has abided by the referred decisions of the Hungarian media authority now for almost two years. Accordingly, it does not differentiate its online music and message services from other data traffic in respect of the speed of the service. As a result, its costumers will experience no change after the current CJEU ruling, Telenor said.