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Compulsory routers

Timeline of compulsory routers

Compulsory routers are a delicate topic and just because of that very complex. Many government agencies, corporations, and organisations already contributed to the public discussion and took part in numerous hearings and comments. Here the FSFE lists the most important events which lead to the current state and also draws a picture of the future development of compulsory routers.

Current state and glance into the future

After almost three years of intensive debates, the German Bundestag passed the law for „choice and connection of telecommunication terminal devices“. This law unambigously declares compulsory routers invalid and establishes freedom of choice of terminal devices.

The passed law became effective on August 1 2016. The FSFE monitors the compliance of the law and asks its supporters, other organisations and administrations to do the same.

  • 01.08.2016: The law comes into effect. From now on all Internet Service Providers have to enable new clients to use alternative modems and routers to connect to the internet. The FSFE is monitoring the implementation by sending out testing devices to volunteers for them to check whether their ISPs obey the law, and collecting the results.
  • 27.11.2015: Although the Federal Council fought the bill against compulsory routers in the first place, it now does not oppose it anymore in its last consultation about it.
  • 05.11.2015: The German Bundestag passes the essentially unmodified law and thereby the abolishment of compulsory routers.
  • 28.10.2015: The FSFE and nine other organisations in civil society and economy send a letter to 132 parliament committee members in which they ask the MPs to support the bill without any modifications.
  • 07.10.2015: The Federal Cabinet and the BMWi don't grant the demands for examining the draft. In its writing the Cabinet clearly explains that there's no reason for departing from the "technologically neutral implementation of terminal device freedom in Germany" by adding exceptions for certain providers or devices.
  • 25.09.2015: The Federal Council publishes its comments on the bill. It questiones the draft's essential foundations and adopts arguments of network providers which only act as pretence.
  • 12.08.2015: The Federal Cabinet passes the law bill for router freedom which is seen as positive by the FSFE. The step follows the European Commission's notification and commentary term until July 8th. During that phase only a small formal ambiguity has been criticised.
  • 25.02.2015: The German Ministry of Economics published a first draft law to ban compulsory routers (German). Except missing enforcing measures FSFE welcomes the draft.
  • 29.09.2014: After the further procedures were unclear for a long time, Netzpolitik.org published an internal revised draft of the transparency bill (German). The FSFE critisises the draft because it legitimises the incapacitation of customers. Instead of prohibiting compulsory routers as decided in the coalition agreement, the draft enables internet providers to hinder customers who want to use another device.
  • 28.03.2014: Together with the CCC and other projects and experts, the FSFE praises the basic idea in a press release and a detailed statement (German) but clearly criticises that users are further burdened and that the proposed test methods are inconsistently considered. Most interestingly, the formulation of the regulation is substantially weaker than that in the coalition agreement, and the still-unaddressed question of network termination points is not even mentioned.
  • 24.02.2014: After the first large hearing, the Federal Network Agency publishes a transparency bill that eliminates compulsory routers and should improve the transparency of telecommunication companies for customers. Comments may be submitted until the end of March 2014.
  • 16.12.2013: After the German Federal Parliament elections in the end of September, the coalition agreement is officially signed. In it, the CDU, CSU, and SPD clearly speak out against compulsory routers and demand that every customer must receive all necessary access information unasked. Such a clear statement of position from the coalition parties can be explained by the media response (for example from Golem (German), Heise (German) and Netzpolitik (German) as well as Focus (German), Frankfurter Rundschau (German), NTV (German) and Süddeutsche (German)) and the enormous interest from the population.
  • 04.11.2013: The FSFE joins numerous other organisations and individuals by sending an extensive public statement to the Federal Network Agency (here the press release) upon completion of the public hearings. The statement contains answers to almost all the posed questions with specific regard to the existing and potential disadvantages of compulsory routers.

    The majority of the 309 statements argues against compulsory routers. Unsurprisingly, the only two groups that are in favour are Internet Service Providers and Network Providers. Notable arguments have been filed by e.g. AVM, CCC, and Sipgate. The Federal Networking Agency has collected all statements.

  • 20.09.2013: The Federal Network Agency starts a public hearing (398/2013) on the disputed network termination points. At the hearing, many - partly very technical - questions related to possible definitions are posed which are directly related to compulsory routers. Just a few days later the FSFE publishes a preliminary statement, in which it voices serious concerns for security, consumer-friendliness, and competition.
  • 31.07.2013:: In a second draft of the "net neutrality regulation", compulsory routers are discussed in §3 (PDF). Contrary to the first draft, the term used now is “Endgerätenetzneutralität”, which (roughly) translates to "terminal device net neutrality".
  • 25.06.2013: The Federal Network Agency organises a workshop on the topic of compulsory routers and designs four models for resolution.
  • 17.06.2013: The BMWi (Ministry of Economic) presents the draft of a net neutrality regulation according to §41a Abs.1 TKG (PDF). In §3, compulsory routers are specifically addressed and rejected.
  • 04.06.2013: The federal government responds to the "minor interpellation" made on the 17th of May. In it, open questions are treated very carefully and responsibilities are more or less redirected towards the Federal Network Agency. The BMWi does not consider itself to be part of the topic, since the FNA at this point of time still is involved in talks with Network Providers and router manufacturers. An article on Netzpolitik summarises these circumstances thoroughly.
  • 17.05.2013: The fraction “DIE LINKE” poses a “minor interpellation” to the federal government related to the statements made by the Federal Networking Agency. In it, the question on whether a router qualifies as an access point or a telecommunication device and in how far the end-user may interfere with it is posed.
  • 22.01.2013: Among others, the German manufacturer of telecommunication devices AVM comments on the issue and compares the situation with the mobile market, where providers do not dictate to their customers which phone to use.
  • 10.01.2013: The roots of the public debate of compulsory routers can be found in a reply to an anonymous user made by the Federal Network Agency. The user criticises the coupling of his DSL contract with a specific router. He does so in reaction to an extensive article of the professional magazine "PC-WELT", in which the common practices of DSL providers are criticised. The Federal Networking Agency deems this behaviour to be justified, since the DSL provider in question defines the router to be part of the network and thus the infrastructure he provides. Therefore, the end-user should and must not exchange it against another device.

    Here, the basic conflict becomes clear: the Federal Network Agency cannot or does not want to decide where the network of the Internet provider ends and from where the user has full control. Especially in terms of routers that include a modem and numerous other functions (IAD, Integrated Access Device), there are many unresolved issues and a need for clear definitions.