[FSFE PR][EN] Telecom reform in Austria: consumers must benefit from Router Freedom

press at fsfe.org press at fsfe.org
Thu May 6 07:15:59 UTC 2021

 = Telecom reform in Austria: consumers must benefit from Router Freedom =

[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210506-01.en.html ]

Austria is reforming its telecommunications law to incorporate the new
European directives on electronic communications. The Austrian
government has now an unique opportunity to leverage router freedom at
the legislative level to protect consumers and the market.

It should go without saying that anyone should be able to freely choose
and use a router and modem of their choice for Internet connection, like
one does with smartphones and other devices. Router Freedom [1] refers
to the right that consumers of any Internet Service Provider (ISP) have
to choose and use a private modem and router instead of equipment
supplied by the ISP. This right is consolidated in the EU by the Net
Neutrality Regulation [2]. However, as part of a major reform of the
telecommunications sector in Europe (the EECC directive), new rules are
being introduced that may have a negative impact on Router Freedom,
because they affect the status of routers being considered as terminal

Like other European countries [3] Austria is in a process of
implementing the reform of the telecom sector. The Austrian government
has proposed the draft [4] (German) of the new Telecommunications Act
(TKG) with provisions affecting the ability consumers have to use their
own device to connect to the Internet. Austria has with this reform an
unique opportunity to leverage consumers' rights by guaranteeing Router
Freedom on the legislative level, fostering an open market.

 == Router Freedom and consumer rights: a perfect match ==

Routers and modems are gatekeepers of most online activity. Consumers
need to be able to pick a device that allows them to use security and
data protection features which fulfil their requirements. Most ISPs only
provide a few router models. This raises risks to their consumers'
freedom and security. For instance, if major problems or security holes
appear, an enormous number of users would be affected at once. The lack
of Router Freedom compromises consumers' privacy and the security of
most sensitive personal data.

On the other hand, Router Freedom decreases the probability that the
router market will be dominated by only one or a few products or
manufacturers. Therefore, only with Router Freedom consumers' digital
sovereignty is properly assured and the market remains open for all

 === Router Freedom is in danger ===

The FSFE and the Austrian organisation epicenter.works [5] urge the
Austrian government to include Router Freedom in the telecom law as a
standard, consumers' IT-security, privacy and data protection cannot be
traded off in favour of ISPs' commercial practices. Router Freedom
should be consolidated in the reform text.

As reported by epicenter.works [6] in February 2021 (German), under the
draft of the new Austrian TKG, the decision on Router Freedom will be
entirely delegated to the national regulatory agency (RTR) [7] instead
of consolidating this right in the law text. In extreme cases, this
could lead to rules [8] that could completely block consumers' rights to
use their own equipment.

Countries like Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have passed laws
enforcing Router Freedom in the last few years. More recently, in the
context of the EU telecom reform, Greece [9] has preliminary decided on
Router Freedom with the regulator proposing it as a standard choice.

 === How people can help protecting Router Freedom ===

The engagement from consumers is fundamental for protecting Router
Freedom in Austria and the EU. The FSFE has prepared an Activity Package
[10] for individuals and organisations who want to communicate with
regulators and decision makers of their countries and take a stand for
Router Freedom. Besides, we want to know more about consumer experience
with Router Freedom in Austria, so we can bring the issues to the
attention of decision makers. Please participate in the Router Freedom
survey [11]. It will take only a few minutes!

Discuss this [12]

  1: https://fsfe.org/activities/routers/routers.en.html
  2: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2015.310.01.0001.01.ENG
  3: https://fsfe.org/news/2020/news-20200601-01.en.html
  4: https://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXVII/ME/ME_00082/index.shtml
  5: https://epicenter.works/
  6: https://epicenter.works/document/3122
  7: https://www.rtr.at
  8: https://fsfe.org/news/2020/news-20200601-01.en.html
  9: https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210505-01.en.html
 10: https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210330-01.en.html
 11: https://survey.fsfe.org/index.php/628449
 12: https://community.fsfe.org/t/668

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