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Article - Internet Policy

Internet Policy


A modern internet policy shapes the digital transformation for companies and citizens, facilitates innovation by means of new business models and guarantees fair participation in technological progress. How can I approach digitalisation strategically, and who will help me to do so? How does Industrie 4.0 work for me? What does it mean for my company, and how can I train my staff? And how can I make use of digital information for the benefit of my company?

Free access to the internet is an indispensable element of any digital society. It offers room for citizens to develop. At the same time, digital connectivity provides new opportunities for growth and prosperity. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy creates clear rules and good competitive conditions for digital markets, infrastructures and platforms in many fields. Key areas include securing net neutrality and facilitating the use of public data by companies.

Computer chip and gas fiber, symbolic of digitisation; Source: Getty Images / Rafe Swan

© Getty Images / Rafe Swan

Taking control of the digital transformation

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Digital Platforms

Creating a new regulatory framework for the digital economy

Social media in the internet, comparison and evaluation portals, search engines, sharing platforms, app stores, online market places and media platforms increasingly not only impacting our daily digital life, they are also changing and affecting much more: new business models, our handling and use of data, competition, and matters regarding data protection and data sovereignty.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to develop its regulatory framework to facilitate more investment and innovation on the basis of fair competition while at the same time guaranteeing data sovereignty and the protection of fundamental rights of individuals and companies.

An open dialogue for a digital regulatory policy: From Green Paper to White Paper

By introducing the “Green Paper on Digital Platforms” (in German) as part of its Digital Strategy 2025, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has initiated a broad and intensive discussion process to discuss these aspects and possible rules and framework conditions for digital platforms. Representatives from companies, business associations, trade unions, non-profit organisations, scientists and citizens took part in the consultation process: over 260 online contributions and 70 detailed comments were submitted. The consultation results were incorporated into the “White Paper on Digital Platforms”. It presents concrete proposals for a digital regulatory policy and is deliberately formulated for the European debate. Learn more.

Competition law in the digital age – the 9th amendment of the Act against Restraints of Competition.

By adopting the 9th amendment of the Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB), the Federal Government improved the regulatory framework governing abuse of market power and mergers. This amendment takes account of the particularities of digital markets, thereby providing effective protection against abuse of market power and guaranteeing effective control of mergers.


Net neutrality

Guaranteeing net neutrality, facilitating innovation

The question whether and to what extent operators may differentiate in terms of data transmission in their networks has been discussed for several years under the term "net neutrality".

Net neutrality means the unhindered, non-discriminatory transmission of data packages - regardless of their origin, recipients and contents.

Differentiated data transmission is important to guarantee the provision of quality services, for instance in the event of a temporary overload of parts of the network. Real-time audiovisual content particularly requires quality of service to ensure transmission in an adequate picture and sound quality. These services include, for instance, information and entertainment programmes of TV channels as well as school or university lectures on demand in smart education networks. Some of the telemedical services provided by smart healthcare networks require guaranteed transmission rates. The revision of the Telecommunications Act also guaranteed compliance with European rules on an open internet at national level.

For further information, please click here (in German).

The goal: guaranteeing net neutrality

The German federal government wants to maintain the open internet and facilitate further qualitative innovations in the telecommunications sector. Therefore it has advocated the adoption of rules on net neutrality at European level. In August 2016, the federal government adopted a revision of the Telecommunications Act to guarantee compliance with European rules on an open internet.

Expert dialogue on net neutrality

An expert dialogue of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) contributes to a scientifically based objective discussion of key economic and social matters regarding net neutrality. The studies and workshops aim to analyse current developments and to identify the need for action in the fields of regulation and legislation.

Keyvisual zu G20, Symboldbild für Digitalisierung; Quelle:



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More legal certainty in the field of wifi

No more secondary WiFi liability for Internet access providers

The increasing digitalisation of commerce and everyday life means that people expect fast internet access at all times and in all places. This requires public wifi hotspots. The federal government wants to tap the large social and economic potential of wifi networks and make more networks accessible to everyone.

In German towns and cities, mobile internet via wifi is to be available for everyone. In the future, airports, cafés, town halls and libraries should have the possibility to provide wifi free of charge on the basis of legal certainty.

This requires first of all a clear legal situation. Up to now, operators of open hotspots could be accused of “interfering" and be cautioned (for so called “secondary WiFi liability”) for rights violations by their WiFi users. Smaller companies in particular, such as cafés and hotels, would therefore often refrain from providing WiFi access - and thus from attracting potential customers - despite the competitive disadvantage this entails.

Legal certainty for WiFi operators

Against this backdrop, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has revised the Telemedia Act to create legal certainty for potential WiFi operators: The much-criticised “secondary WiFi liability" for Internet access providers, and thus the basis for warning costs associated with it, no longer applies with the entry into force of the law amendment on 13 October 2017. From now on, no further costs can be claimed, in particular no warning costs that are connected to the secondary WiFi liability. Furthermore, authorities are not entitled to oblige WiFi operators to register users, encrypt or permanently close their WiFi. On the other hand, however, the draft law also takes due account of the right to intellectual property and its European legal requirements. In the case of copyright infringements, some right holders can have WiFi hotspots blocked in order to prevent the repetition of a concrete infringement.

The amendment establishes the legal framework to introduce open WiFi spots throughout Germany. “I now expect a boost for many open WiFi hotspots, which we also need for a digital society,” said Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries.

On the other hand, however, the draft law also takes due account of the right to intellectual property and its European legal requirements. In the case of copyright infringements, some right holders can have WiFi hotspots blocked in order to prevent the repetition of a concrete infringement.

However, this is subject to the condition that the right holder has no other means to prevent the infringement of his right and that the blocking is reasonable and proportionate. This ensures that a blocking measure does not lead to "over-blocking". The costs incurred before and after court for the enforcement of such usage restrictions must not be imposed on the WiFi operator.

Free Choice of Router

New legal rules strengthen consumers and competition

So far, several network operators have allowed only their own routers for broadband connections of consumers. A new legal regulation now allows for a free choice of equipment and creates more competition.

The free choice of routers strengthens consumers and enables more competition. To this end, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has introduced a legal regulation on router freedom, which was passed by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat in November 2015 (Draft law) (in German) (PDF, 110KB). The requirement of several network operators to use only their own routers not only prevented consumers from freely choosing products, but also restricted competition as the producers of routers and modems were highly dependent on a small number of network operators. The Act entered into force on 1 August 2016.

Ruder-Wettkampf symbolisiert Wettbewerbspolitik; Quelle: dpa

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Protecting free competition

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Open Data

Open data to facilitate digital business models

Data are an important driver of the economy in the digital age. On the one hand, the volume of data has increased considerably. On the other hand, the increase in the data volume results in a rapid development of technologies for their analysis, use and dissemination and in many new services and applications.

The public sector also collects, compiles and reproduces a broad spectrum of data in fields such as the economy, geography, society, transport, tourism and the weather. It is in fact Europe's largest source of information. Public-sector data that are subject to the freedom of information - including maps, statistical data, court rulings, and population and patent registers - offer a great potential for young, emerging companies.

Data that may be used by everyone (open data) can provide the basis for innovative products and services that require the use, aggregation or combination of such data - e.g. for navigation systems in vehicles, weather forecasts, mobile applications, and finance and insurance services.

Price maintenance for e-books

Protecting e-books as cultural objects

The book market is also undergoing a fundamental change due to the digitalisation of our economy: more and more books are sold online, and electronic books (e-books) are enjoying increasing popularity.

The Draft Second Act Amending the Act on the Price Maintenance for Books (in German) (PDF, 242KB) is to protect books as cultural objects in the digital age and to guarantee the diversity of book titles and bookshops. It clarifies that e-books, as substitutes for printed books, are subject to the statutory price maintenance for books.

The Act has also created greater legal certainty: the statutory price maintenance now applies to the sale of all books to consumers in Germany regardless of where the traders are located.

Price maintenance for books guarantees diversity and efficient market

Books are to be available everywhere at the same price, and bookshops with a broad range of books are to guarantee supply with books throughout the country. Furthermore, the price maintenance for books ensures that there are many small and medium-sized publishing houses which enable a large number of authors to publish their works.

Thanks to the price maintenance, e-books will become more attractive in economic terms for publishers and booksellers. The Act thus also creates incentives for further innovative developments on the book market, e.g. in the fields of electronic book formats and digital marketing models. The Act on the Price Maintenance for Books thus guarantees an efficient market for books in Germany and promotes their role as cultural objects.

Network cables; Quelle: dpa