Router Freedom: Greece one step forward - Germany one backward
EU member states are updating their legislation and implementing rules on Router Freedom. Greece and Germany have taken the first steps. But while Greece has focused on interests of end-users, Germany has moved in the opposite direction. The next months are crucial for Router Freedom in Europe and local participation is paramount.
Telecommunications law in the EU is passing through complex legislative reforms, involving, among others, supra-national institutions like BEREC, member states' parliaments and national regulatory agencies (NRAs). Since December 2020, EU member states have started legislative processes to implement the European Electronic Communications Code, or EECC (Directive (EU) 2018/1972), a key component of the reform, which sets new standards for Router Freedom.
Greece and Germany were the first EU countries to incorporate the EECC into national legislation. Now, the national regulatory bodies of both countries will have to decide on rules that will impact the status of Router Freedom in their jurisdictions. The FSFE has been following closely the new developments and took part in consultative processes. In addition, we have prepared an activity package to help local communities engaging with their national regulatory bodies.
Greece: moving in the right direction towards Router Freedom
In the second half of 2020, Greece incorporated the EECC into national legislation, under which the Greek regulatory body was to specify whether end-users have the right to choose and use their own routers. In March 2021, the Greek NRA (EETT) launched a public consultation and presented a preliminary conclusion (Greek) in favour of Router Freedom. According to the regulator, Router Freedom would be fully compatible with Greek legislation, and would not create market restrictions or interoperability issues. EETT has also confirmed that Router Freedom would best ensure end-users' privacy and data protection.
In April 2021, the FSFE took part in the public consultation (Greek) supporting EETT's preliminary conclusion and stressed the arguments in favour of Router Freedom. FSFE's arguments were backed up by the following six organisations in the field of digital rights, consumer protection and business representation, which also submitted corresponding positions on the consultation:
- Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE)
- Consumer Protection Union (EKPIZO)
- Consumer Protection Centre (KEPKA)
- Homos Digitalis
- Open Technologies Alliance (GFOSS)
- Sarantoporo.gr - Community Wireless Network
Germany: falling short on leveraging end-users' rights
In December 2020, the German Federal Government submitted a proposal for incorporating the EECC into internal legislation, the Telecommunications Modernization Act (TKG-E). Questionably, the massive document, with more than 400 pages, was made available for public consultation of merely four days. The extremely short period prevented stakeholders to properly analysing the rules in detail and providing a more structured feedback. Nevertheless, the FSFE submitted a position (German) criticizing the draft text due to its lack of perspective of end-users' rights.
The proposed law failed to reflect the progress Router Freedom has achieved in the country since 2016. We claimed that Router Freedom had to be retained as the standard due not only to its consistency with the internal legislation but also to the very positive overall experience within the market, supporting end-users' digital sovereignty. In April 2021, the TKG was approved (German) allowing the German NRA to restrict Router Freedom under determined conditions.
Now, in order to comply with the TKG, the German NRA (BNetzA) will have to decide on end-users' ability to use their own equipment. The decision-making process must pass through public consultation. We will closely follow the process with BNetzA to safeguard the positive experience Router Freedom has achieved in the last five years. We strongly believe that the regulator has all the necessary elements available to consolidate Router Freedom in Germany.
How you can help
The next months will be crucial for Router Freedom in Europe. Other countries are starting legislative initiatives which will require an intense collaboration among people, organisations and communities. You can be part of these processes too. With our activity package, you can learn more about the various advantages of Router Freedom and the whole situation in Europe. In addition, we have set up an end-user survey to learn more about the issues end-users are facing with their ISPs in regard to Router Freedom. Your opinion will help us to map the problems existing in Europe and will facilitate our communication with regulatory authorities.
In addition, by becoming a FSFE donor, you help make possible our long-term engagement and professional commitment in defending people's rights to control technology.
The Router Freedom initiative
Router Freedom is the right that consumers of any Internet Service Provider (ISP) have to choose and use a private modem and router instead of equipment that the ISP provides. Since 2013, the Free Software Foundation Europe has been successfully engaged with Router Freedom, promoting end-users' freedom to choose and use their own terminal equipment - first in Germany as a precedent, and now in many European countries. Join us and learn more about the several ways to get involved.