Germany’s telecoms regulator Bundesnetzagentur believes US technology giants such as Google and Facebook – which provide messaging and email services – should be regulated in the same way as telecommunications companies.
“What we are seeing is that the line between traditional telecommunications services and web-based services like [Google’s] Gmail and [Facebook’s] WhatsApp has become very blurred. Users often cannot see any difference at all,” Jochen Homann, president of Bundesnetzagentur, told Financial Times.
In 2014, the regulator asked Google to register its email service as a telecoms operator and the case is currently before the European Court of Justice.
If Google was to do so, the regulator would impose on it requirements around data protection and security, and it would have to provide information to authorities.
In a statement, Google said the German regulator is the only one in Europe which wants Gmail registered as a telecoms service and this would have consequences for other communication services and EU member states.
Homann also commented on the need to encourage investment in fibre: “We have to find ways of making it more attractive to invest in the expansion of the fibre network, including for Deutsche Telekom. The problem at the moment is that hardly anyone is prepared to pay extra for it”.
He said he doesn’t want to regulate fibre in the same way as copper networks: “We’re currently looking at how far we can scale back regulation and if there is a need for it at all.”