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FSFE calls for digital sustainability in the telecom sector


As a contribution to a consultation organised by the European telecom regulator, BEREC, the FSFE calls for increasing the level of digital sustainability in the telecommunications sector by safeguarding device neutrality and establishing the right to install any software on any device.

Last month BEREC, the European telecommunications regulator, organised a public consultation on a report about the impact of the telecommunications sector on the environment. The report is an initiative to assess and better understand the impact of the digital sector, including electronic communications networks and services, on the environment and to set an outline for BEREC activities in support of environmental sustainability of the sector.

The FSFE took part in the consultation as a civil society stakeholder with years of experience in digital sustainability. Our position offered recommendations that could be further used to improve environmental transparency and data accuracy on the telecom sector’s environmental footprint by developing regulatory frameworks to safeguard and promote software and hardware sustainability. FSFE's position in this consultation was aligned with the publication of the Open Letter "The universal right to install any software on any device", co-signed by more than 45 organisations, demanding the universal right to install any software on any device. Publication of source code of drivers, tools, and interfaces is fundamental for extending devices’ lifespan.

Router Freedom: a sustainability case study for the telecom sector

The FSFE highlighted how it is possible to develop policies for consumer protection which have a significant positive impact on the environment. Our Router Freedom activity is a perfect example of how to enable consumers' rights to choose and use their own internet devices as a close and direct connection with sustainability by mitigating e-waste and increasing the lifespan of terminal equipment.

5 ways you get the most out of your router when it runs Free Software. #1 Own the router, own the code. Free Software allows keeping your autonomy over your device. Freedom of choice, flexibility, and alternatives are assured. #2 Configure your router. Tinker with your router, explore personalized features, and make your router compatible with your devices. Configure it any way you want with the GNU/Linux/BSD distributions for routers. #3 Keep your privacy. Protect your personal data. Free Software increases security, as flaws and problems are spotted quickly and anyone can fix them. #4 Maintain your router. You can update the software without depending on the manufacturer. Keep your device for a longer time and reduce e-waste. #5 Avoid dependency on the ISP
Router Freedom mitigates e-waste and empowers users to control their own internet devices.

However, we also raised the point that the current EU regulatory framework negatively impacts sustainability by restricting freedom of terminal equipment. This directly impacts the sustainability of the whole telecom sector. Based on our experience, we encouraged BEREC to consider other regulatory ways directed to software and hardware re-use in telecom markets that would enable sustainable approaches and safeguard end-users' rights. We also called for strict collaboration with national regulators in achieving a favourable regulatory landscape for terminal equipment, including routers and modems, which would positively affect the more efficient use of internet devices and equitable use of public networks.

Free Software, device neutrality and right to repair are important for the environment

The FSFE acknowledged the regulator's initiative to raise concerns on how the telecom sector impacts the environment and recommended including in the agenda for future work the policy principles that can have a profound impact on digital sustainability and consumer protection.

FSFE: several initiatives for digital sustainability

The FSFE has been deeply involved in working to protect and enhance freedoms of technology users in Europe and defending the rights of end-users to choose and use terminal equipment for internet connection. In recent years, the FSFE has developed and conducted several initiatives oriented to the sustainability of software and hardware, including technologies with direct impact on the telecommunications sector, for instance:

Join us to support our work in engaging with telecom regulators all around Europe to influence legislation and raise awareness for software and hardware sustainability with a financial support.