Input for the BEREC's guidelines on Router Freedom in Europe
Router Freedom is the right of customers of any Internet Service Provider (ISP) to choose and use a private modem and router instead of a router that the ISP forces them to use. The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) drafted guidelines for national agencies how to deal with Router Freedom in their countries. The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) provided mixed feedback to an ongoing public consulation.
The status of Router Freedom in Europe differs from country to country as the monitoring by the FSFE shows. The core of the debate is the question of where the Network Termination Point (NTP) is located. This defines where the network of the ISP ends and where the network of the user begins. If the modem and router are considered part of the ISP's infrastructure, a user cannot claim sovereignty of their communication and security.
The patchwork rug of different rules may change soon as BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, has been commissioned to create guidelines for the National Regulatory Agencies (NRAs) and help them with implementing European regulation in a harmonised way. BEREC's current draft of the guidelines is up for public consultation until 21 November 2019. We analysed this draft and the EU Directives and Regulations it references, and provided our conclusion in a brief document.In short, BEREC puts three different models forward to discussion:
- The network termination point is at location A. This means that routers and modems are under the user's control, who can decide which device to use – either the one recommended and provided by the ISP or one by a third party. That would result in Router Freedom.
- The NTP is at B. This means that only the modem (so the device connecting to the ISP) will be part of the ISP's network, but routers or media boxes will be in the user's domain.
- The NTP is at C. That's the most restrictive option as it results in the modem and router or a combined device being solely under the control of the ISP.
Understandably, we argued in favour of making point A the network termination point to establish and protect freedom of choice, privacy and data protection, fair competition of device manufacturers, as well as security. Furthermore, we made a few suggestions to improve the guidelines and their implementation by the National Regulatory Agencies:
- In this draft, the guidelines carefully weigh up the different possible locations for the NTP. However, it is clear from the arguments that only point A makes sense from a perspective of customers and businesses, and that no serious technological reasons speak against it. BEREC should take a more firm stand on this and discourage National Agencies from making any other choice to reduce a patchwork rug of different regulations.
- There is a whole section discussing the impact of the different NTP locations on ISPs and network operators, but users' necessities are only implied, although a EU Directive from 2008 and a EU Regulation from 2015 clearly state that customers have to have Router Freedom. We ask BEREC to elaborate the different options also more prominently from the perspective of technology users.
You can still participate in the public consultation by just sharing your feedback on the draft BEREC guidelines by sending an e-mail to them before 21 November 2019 17:00 CET. It's a short deadline, so feel free to use our full response as an inspiration.
If you need more arguments in favour of Router Freedom, please read our summary page. For individuals and groups who want to become even more active for Router Freedom, we have created an activity package with more background information, experience reports of how the FSFE managed to turn the situation around in Germany, and other tips and tricks.