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Compulsory Routers: what customers have to take care of now

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Up until now, Internet service providers (ISPs) in Germany determined the router users had to use to connect to the Internet. The user had no say in this decision. This changes on August 1. A new law will allow users choose the device that gets installed in their homes. The FSFE wants to ensure everybody knows about their new rights and is asking users to report cases in which ISPs try to avoid the new regulation.

"Compulsory Routers" are what we call the devices imposed on users, forbidding them from using any other appliance to access the Internet. Compulsory routers are often the subject of critical security flaws which users can't legally or technically fix themselves. They are also known to be incompatible with certain network devices and standards, like IPv6, or to support only a small number of important features.

However, the legal situation was ambiguous and ISPs defined the first router or modem after the wall socket as part of their network. They could thus bar users from controlling the technology installed within their own homes, despite the fact that the users were even paying for the electricity that run the devices.

The Free Software Foundation Europe took up the fight to outlaw Compulsory Routers in 2013, and we have finally won a major landmark victory: from August 1 onwards, clients of German internet providers are allowed by law to use any terminal device they choose. Regardless of whether it is a DSL or cable connection, the ISP will have to supply the information you need to connect an alternative router to use the Internet and telephone network.

Help us track the implementation

The law is very clear with regard to your new rights, but, based on past behaviours of ISPs, the FSFE must assume many providers will ignore the regulation and will continue to try and force their clients to use their default router.

ISPs will probably make the argument that the law only applies to new customers, or that a connection to the Internet with alternative devices will be unstable, or denying support to clients with devices other than the ones they provide.

We want to make sure that these misbehaviours are made public and we need your help for that. If you are a client of a German internet provider, we ask you exercise your new right and start using an alternative device, ideally one that runs Free Software.

Once your new device is up and running, we need you to provide us with feedback on whether you had any issues while running your new router. We will collect this data and confront providers that are not in compliance with the new law. We have also created a wiki page where we report information, testing procedures, results, and user experiences.

Further information

For more information on Compulsory Routers and why they are bad, please visit our campaign page. Also see the timeline of the most important events related to this campaign. To contribute to this and other FSFE campaigns that defend your freedom, you can support us with a donation or by becoming a sustaining member.

FSFE Summit 2016

If you're interested in knowing more about how Free Software helps defend other important rights, we will be holding the FSFE yearly summit at the beginning of September in Berlin. Come along and discover how you can also help return the control over technology to people.