Government relations & regulatory issues.
As a globally active company with a strong presence in Europe, Deutsche Telekom acts as a discussion partner for governments, parliaments, authorities and NGOs on all issues related to ICT and innovation. Headquartered in Germany, we receive special attention from German domestic institutions. We also have a representative office in Brussels, where we engage in dialog with the institutions of the European Union as well as with other associations and organizations. We engage in active dialog with similar institutions in countries in which Deutsche Telekom is active, particularly in the European markets and in the United States.
Politicians and government authorities influence the development and availability of the network infrastructure, technologies and services that are required for future ICT solutions such as cloud computing. Not only does this directly impact the competitiveness of telecommunications companies, it also impacts business in general, which relies on having a fast network infrastructure as well as state-of-the-art telecommunications services. In addition to economic factors, networks and services are of considerable importance for maintaining a sense of community in society. Decision-makers from parliaments, authorities and governments need the exchange of ideas with representatives of society and companies to help them tackle these challenges. Communication was also key during the preparation phase of the new Telecommunications Act, which was approved and went into effect during the reporting period. That is why Deutsche Telekom engages in active, ongoing dialog with interested stakeholders from politics and the general public.
Our partners from parliaments, governments and non-profit organizations need to uphold their independence and integrity. This principle is codified in Telekom's employee guidelines which were revised in early 2011. For example, they prohibit donations to political institutions in Germany as well as non-transparent attempts to exercise influence. These guidelines make sure that we base our political communication on facts, expertise, credibility and integrity. Deutsche Telekom is also registered with all the required information in the public transparency register for lobbyists in Brussels. This is the basis for recipients to experience information provided by Telekom as authentic and trustworthy, so that it can be assimilated in opinion-building processes in the political arena and society.
High-speed Internet is an important growth engine. Increasing productivity, sales markets for new services and new, more sustainable ways of working and living depend on modern transmission technologies with high data rates. That is why the lawmakers need to improve the requirements for investing in these broadband technologies, creating a broad basis for long-term prosperity.
Deutsche Telekom has been making a contribution to this area for years by investing heavily in the infrastructure for fixed-line and mobile Internet. The high-speed Internet is giving rise to further expectations and demands by society that again require further investments. For example, we need to guarantee user security in the global networks and continue to increase confidence in the services being offered. At Deutsche Telekom, we take these challenges seriously. However, these need to be supported by future-thinking regulatory policies that promote investment in the next generation broadband network. The only way to achieve this is to provide stronger investment incentives and better planning security for the industry. The EU Commission is planning to approve decisive framework conditions in this area. However, it is important that these are also implemented by the EU member states and incorporated into the daily activities of the regulatory authorities for telecommunications. They include:
- Increasing planning and legal security for investors before network expansion begins
- Giving market solutions priority above regulation
- Establishing regionally differentiated regulation that takes the competitive situation in the various regions into account
- Better options for allocating risk fairly among investors and competitors looking for access to their infrastructure
- Using synergies by facilitating the shared use of existing infrastructure in all network sectors
The topic of network neutrality continues to get a lot of attention from the public. More specifically, people are worried that the Internet they know today may be restricted in the future. Services that used to be freely accessible would only be available for a fee or possibly not at all. However, Deutsche Telekom is committed to preserving an open Internet. Content and services will continue to be accessible online in the future based on the "best effort" principle.
Deutsche Telekom continues to expand its transmission capacities as well as its infrastructure so that we are able to cope with our customers' increasing data traffic and constantly upgrade our network. This is the only way for us to meet our customers' increasing demands and live up to the requirements of online content and application providers to provide their services in high quality in the future as well. Telecommunications networks cannot be operated without network management.
That is why Deutsche Telekom is developing business models based on the "best effort" Internet principle that online businesses can use to offer innovative services that pose specific demands on transmission quality and quality of service. We do not monitor any of our customers' content but focus on managing the rapidly growing number of different types of online data flows. Deutsche Telekom supports the freedom of the Internet and does not influence user or provider content in any way. Telekom will continue to take a non-discriminatory approach to marketing services with different quality-of-service levels in competition with other network operators. Differentiating quality-of-service levels also makes an important contribution to financing broadband network expansion in the medium and long term. It gives consumers greater choice and guarantees a high quality level.
Deutsche Telekom supports the European obligations to provide transparent information on quality of service. They give national regulatory authorities the opportunity to define minimum quality requirements for services and to make the provision of certain information to consumers mandatory. Combined with general competition law, these legal provisions constitute an effective way to ensure an open Internet and give consumers a choice between different quality-of-service levels provided by one or several telecommunications providers. During the reporting period, Deutsche Telekom collaborated intensively with other mobile communications providers to develop measures to improve transparency regarding the bandwidths available to customers in the respective mobile networks. The companies are also involved in an intensive exchange with the German Federal Network agency for this purpose. This collaboration will be continued in 2013.
One of Deutsche Telekom's aims is to become the most highly regarded service company in the industry. That is why we gave high priority to consumer-related topics in 2012 as well. We further strengthened internal functions dealing with consumer relations in order to improve exchange between Deutsche Telekom's product and service development areas and our external stakeholders from politics and the general public.
Central topics in legislation and in stakeholder dialog as well as efforts to create voluntary regulations for the industry beyond legal provisions included:
- Improving consumer data privacy, e.g., in the online advertising business
- Improving extensive protection of minors, irrespective of the technology used, at the national and EU level
- Improving customer service standards
- Improving customer privacy in telecommunications, e.g., when switching providers for fixed-line and mobile connections
In the interest of consumers, we supported self-regulation for the online advertising business in Germany in the area of usage-based online advertising (targeting) in 2012. Targeting means consumers' online behavior is analyzed and ads are specifically selected to meet their interests. In order to strengthen consumer rights in this area, we support increased transparency and informational self-determination by enabling consumers to lodge objections beyond sector boundaries. Since 2012 we have been involved in the related initiative being conducted by DDOW, a voluntary self-control organization that promotes data privacy in online advertising in Germany.
We also rely on self-regulation and providing information to protect the private sphere of consumers when it comes to geodata services. To this end, we helped set up an information platform for Selbstregulierung Informationswirtschaft e.V., an association for self-regulation in the information business. People can use the information and objections platform, "Data privacy code for geodata services" to directly block images online that show their city, street or house.
Deutsche Telekom continued to make significant progress in 2012 for consumers wishing to switch fixed-line providers in collaboration with other network operators. The goal is to make it easier for consumers to switch providers without any service interruptions. We were even able to launch the new switch-over processes, which apply to all mobile network providers, throughout the entire market in late 2012. These processes now enable number portability from customers' current mobile communications contracts. In all these areas, Telekom stands for a constructive and solution-oriented approach that is geared to both the consumers' interests and the interests of our company.