Greece about to secure Router Freedom but leaves fiber out
Greece is one step closer to securing Router Freedom, but regulators are excluding fiber (FTTH) connections from the legislation. A coalition of organisations, allies of the FSFE, is now requesting that lawmakers reconsider this and thus safeguard the freedom of all users.
Since 2021, the regulatory process that defines the network termination point (the NTP) in Greece has been carried out by the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT). Defining the NTP is necessary to determine whether users have the right to choose their own router and modem or if their Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the final say over network equipment.
In April 2022, we welcomed that the Greek regulator proposed legislation safeguarding Router Freedom for common networks, such as DSL and coaxial. This is a leap forward in safeguarding consumer rights. However, in the same proposal, EETT has explicitly excluded fiber connections (FTTH), a decision that has the potential of negatively impacting end-users’ rights. The proposed regulation sets the NTP for fiber connections in a position that would make the optical terminal equipment part of the ISPs’ networks, making home network access equipment the property of the ISP.
The FSFE assisted a coalition of organisations to respond to the EETT’s public consultation, supporting the regulator to implement Router Freedom for all types of internet connection, including FTTH.
Why securing Router Freedom for fiber is a must
Backed up by empirical data gathered from our Router Freedom Survey, we demonstrated in our submission that defining the NTP at the passive point also for fiber represents the best and only future-proof regulatory solution that achieves striking the balance among consumer protection, fair competition of terminal equipment markets, privacy, and security, as well as sustainability of the telecom sector.
Regarding FTTH, the survey responses report the following issues:
- Proprietary devices. Generally ONT devices are proprietary and owned by ISPs. Because the devices are proprietary, end-users are not allowed to inspect the source code of drivers and firmware running on the devices, raising the level of insecurity and uncertainty as to which functions the device is performing.
- Undeveloped ONT market. The ONT market has still not developed in Europe. ONT devices are not easily available at retail stores and alternatives are not openly available. There are routers that have ONT built-in, but these alternatives are currently "semi-closed", and come with proprietary firmware.
- Unlawful technical and commercial hurdles. Even in countries where free choice of terminal equipment is a reality – like Germany and the Netherlands – ISPs still impose several barriers to force use of their own equipment on end-users. Within these jurisdictions, network topologies would allow the connection of personal equipment without any serious issues, ISPs make it cumbersome to replace their terminals by not providing login data or other access credentials, not offering technical support for the network as well as threatening end-users with contract termination. These barriers reportedly discourage end-users from deploying their own equipment and are in flagrant non-compliance with telecommunications laws.
Router Freedom: striking a balance between ISPs' and end-users' interests
Determining the position of the NTP has a direct impact on divergent interests of end-users and ISPs. While major ISPs seek to cover their high investments in the deployment of new-generation networks, end-users suffer with commercial practices that restrict their legitimate rights to exercise digital freedoms. Therefore, we have urged EETT to safeguard end-users' interests by counterbalancing the very restrictive arguments of ISPs on device security and network integrity with the real technological necessities encountered in real life.
Looking through the historical perspective, the approach taken by telecom operators follows a consistent pattern when new technologies emerge. Since 2001 we have experienced this argumentation pattern being raised by ISPs. Network security and integrity are the “scapegoats” for every emerging technology by which end-users could have higher degrees of freedom. The same restrictive behaviour and argumentation used to limit free choice of terminal equipment in fiber networks were previously used when DSL and coax technologies were being laid down. However, as our data demonstrates, ISPs' concerns do not resound in reality, as the number of disruptions caused by end-users is insignificantly low. This situation clearly shows that there is no objective technological necessity to exclude FTTH from the standard passive position of the NTP.
Digital rights should not be compromised just because a product, the optical network terminal, is not yet widely available on the market. Keeping the network termination point at the passive physical point for fiber networks will legally make sure that people can use their own equipment. Securing the right to Router Freedom in next-generation networks will foster innovation in the terminal equipment market.
Supporting Router Freedom for all types of network connections in Greece
As we said in our submission, more than 90% of the survey respondents manifested support for regulatory policies safeguarding the right to choose and use routers and modems.
Fiber networks are the connections of the future. The EETT has taken a courageous position to set the position of the NTP at the passive point for legacy networks, but we reinforce the urge for guaranteeing the free choice of terminal equipment for the next generations and emerging technologies. End-users recognise the need to maintain a safe, open, and secure internet connection. Allowing them to choose and use their own equipment is a fundamental step in this direction.
The new round of the public consultation about the definition of the network terminal point was concluded in June 2022. Our position (EN), (EL) was also supported by key stakeholders in the field of digital rights, consumer protection, and business representation:
- Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE)
- Consumer Protection Centre (KEPKA)
- Homo Digitalis
- Open Technologies Alliance (GFOSS)
- Sarantoporo.gr - Community Wireless Network
The Router Freedom initiative
Router Freedom is the right that consumers of any ISP have to be able 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 in many European countries. Join us and learn more about the several ways to get involved. Please consider becoming a FSFE donor; you help make possible our long-term engagement and professional commitment in defending people's rights to control technology.