Dutch authority enforces Router Freedom
The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has published new rules that will move Router Freedom forward in the Netherlands. Within 6 months ISPs have to comply and offer the option for consumers and companies to connect a modem or router of their own choice. The FSFE acknowledges this decision as a major win for consumer rights.
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. In its publication (.pdf) the Dutch Authority cites the BEREC Guidelines on the Implementation of the Open Internet Regulation as the reason for stating the new rules. These guidelines came about with the persistent effort of the FSFE to draw attention to the importance of and right to Router Freedom. As another motivation the ACM explicitly mentions the "significant" group of users wanting to take control of their personal data and network devices.
The new regulation clarifies which part of the infrastructure falls under the governance of the ISP and for which part the user is free to choose their own solution. Router Freedom also implies a user is still free to choose a modem or router offered by the ISP. It is an important step forward that this practice will be the norm from 27 February 2022 and will be enforced by the Dutch regulator. Although the legal aspects have been defined now in the Netherlands, in practice Router Freedom was already tolerated in the country. Most ISPs indicated that they allow consumers to connect their own preferred devices. One even gives consumers a discount if they use their own router or modem.
An important step forward is the explicit choice by the ACM for the Network Termination Point (NTP). The BEREC Guidelines suggest three possible locations, in short A) at the end of the cable B) after the modem C) after the router or mediabox. The ACM has opted for the NTP to be at the end of the cable, offering the maximum of flexibility to the user. This "passive" termination point avoids users having to accept the operation of a device outside of their control, and allows for Router Freedom.
The new rules contain statements on what service should be provided. ISPs are allowed to publish a list of devices, but cannot limit the support to only that list of devices. ISPs should provide the administrative measures within one working day. ISPs maintain the ability to disconnect a user in case damage is done to the network. For troubleshooting a policy is described by which first the ISP has to check it is not their network that is faulty, after which the user can be requested to use a known working device provided by the ISP to verify it is not the different modem or router that is at fault. In case the custom modem or router is at fault, the ISP is allowed to request a financial compensation for providing the known working device for testing purposes.
Space for improvement
ACM's decision is a major win for all end-users in the Netherlands. The decision provides more clarity on the legal aspects involving the NTP. However, ISPs' commercial practices involving routers and modems still pose barriers against end-users' Router Freedom:
- Most ISPs currently offer little to no support for users wanting to install their own router;
- Most ISPs demand you still lease a modem as part of the service and keep it stored;
- Most ISPs don't offer the same level of service like IPv6 when choosing your own router;
- Some ISPs offer IPTV (streaming television) solutions that rely on different channels than the internet service and so these mediaboxes will not work in combination with a custom modem. This point is underscored by the ACM as something that they will be reevaluating in the future.
The new rules don't contain statements that will change the situation on these points, so the FSFE will continue to call for a more robust Router Freedom and monitor the situation in the Netherlands.
The Router Freedom initiative
Since 2013, the Free Software Foundation Europe has 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.