Greece adopts new rules on Router Freedom
The Greek regulator has adopted new rules introducing Router Freedom in the country. Since 2021, the FSFE has been working with policymakers to protect the interests of end-users. Supporting civil society and industry organisations backed the FSFE and contributed positively to this new law.
Routers and modems are gateways to the Internet. As with any other digital devices, consumers should be able to choose such an important piece of equipment. In order to make this right happen, telecommunications law in the EU has been passing through complex legislative reforms since 2018. The process has been slow and marked by nuances. Not all EU countries have taken Router Freedom as a priority. Greece, on the other hand, has been working on the issue for several years and is now among the European countries regulating how end-users can use their own routers and modems to connect to the Internet.
Two years of engagement and a lot of teamwork
At the end of 2020, the Greek telecom regulator (Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission - EETT) started the reform of the telecommunications law and launched the process to set new standards for Router Freedom. In April 2021, the FSFE coordinated an alliance with several civil society organisations and industry representatives to provide input to EETT’s public consultation on the new regulation. At that time, we backed the regulator’s preliminary conclusion that Router Freedom would be fully compatible with Greek legislation, and would not cause market restrictions or interoperability issues.
In April 2022, EETT published the first draft of the regulation. However, in the proposal, the regulator excluded fiber connections (FTTH), a decision that has the potential to negatively impact end-user rights. The FSFE submitted a comprehensive analysis on why Router Freedom should encompass fiber and why it is essential to strike a balance between the rights of ISPs and those of end-users. FSFE’s arguments were supported by the same alliance of organisations and group of volunteers.
In March 2023, EETT adopted the final version of the regulation (EL) regulating Router Freedom in the country. The new rule confirms the freedom of terminal equipment for all network topologies other than fiber. The regulator has taken a stricter approach for FTTH and decided to keep the optical network equipment (ONT) within the domain of the ISPs. Although the regulator allows end-users to require a separation of the ONT and routers, this restricts users from plugging their fiber router directly into the network.
The future: room for improvement and pushing against violations
We acknowledge the efforts the Greek regulator has put over the last few years in the regulatory process. The national regulatory agency has involved different stakeholders and communicated well with them. These are good practices for a transparent and inclusive process for norm setting.
We regret, however, that EETT has decided to exclude fiber networks as a default for Router Freedom. Although the regulator allows end-users to separate the router from the ONT, other European countries, such as Finland, the Netherlands, and most probably Belgium, have set higher standards by allowing consumers to plug the fiber router directly to the public network.
Notwithstanding this compromise, Greek consumers are better served by a clear framework for Router Freedom. Legal uncertainty plays against consumers, who now have clear rules to demand their rights from ISPs.
We encourage the regulator to make the new rules effective. More than only a technical issue, freedom of terminal equipment represents a policy demand and requires constant monitoring of ISPs’ commercial practices. Even in countries with clear-cut rules, ISPs can still violate them, especially when:
- Customers are contractually prohibited from using their equipment or ISPs impose disproportional disadvantages upon users with private routers;
- ISPs do not inform customers of their rights regarding terminal equipment or manipulate users through their customer service in favour of the ISP’s routers;
- ISPs advertise their routers as the only ones compatible with the network, or use non-standard plugs or proprietary protocols;
- ISPs do not provide users the login data to the public network or make no support available to customers.
- ISPs do not offer the same level of service (e.g. IPv6, bandwidth, etc) for customers using their own router.
Community work paid off
FSFE’s work has been empowered by an amazing network of supporters, volunteers, and partner organisations. We would like to thank the Free Software organisations GFOSS and GreekLUG, the digital rights group Homo Digitalis, the network association Sarantoporo.gr, the Greek consumer organisations KEPKA and EKPIZO, the industry representative VTKE, and all our Greek volunteers for their commitment and engagement in these years for making a change in favour of end-users in Greece.
Router Freedom and Device Neutrality
Router Freedom is the right of consumers of any Internet Service Provider to choose and use a private modem and router instead of equipment provided by the ISP. Device Neutrality protects end-users against discriminatory restrictions on Free Software on their devices. With Router Freedom, end-users can install a customized operating system on their equipment and exercise control over the technology. Please consider becoming a FSFE donor; you will help make possible our long-term commitment and professional dedication to defending people’s rights to control technology.