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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  2. <html newsdate="2020-03-02">
  3. <version>1</version>
  4. <head>
  5. <title>Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - the Barriers to Router Freedom in Germany</title>
  6. </head>
  7. <body>
  8. <h1>Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt - the Barriers to Router Freedom in Germany</h1>
  9. <p>Consider this hypothetical scenario: you moved
  10. to a new apartment. Apart from all the stress of packing, transporting, and
  11. unpacking all your stuff at your new home, you also had to deal with
  12. getting utilities connected. The electric company turned out to be
  13. difficult to deal with: they said you had to change your TV set,
  14. toaster, refrigerator and most of your lamps.</p>
  15. <p>They said that they couldn't guarantee you would have electricity at
  16. all unless you bought a whole new set of appliances from them. You
  17. don't understand: your stuff worked perfectly fine in your old
  18. place.</p>
  19. <p>The water company was not much better. They told you that your old
  20. washing machine was "not supported" and that you would even have to
  21. change your toothbrush or you risked polluting the water network of the
  22. whole city for some unexplained reason. We are guessing you would no
  23. doubt find this scenario very hard to believe. We do not blame you: it
  24. is silly beyond the believable.</p>
  25. <p>But now consider this very <strong>real</strong> situation:</p>
  26. <h2>Max and Lucas moved</h2>
  27. <p>Not together, but yet more or less simultaneously. We (my colleague
  28. Lucas and I, Max) moved to new flats in our respective cities in
  29. Germany and decided we wanted to connect to the Internet through our
  30. own routers. Since August 2016, this has been allowed thanks to a <a
  31. href="/news/2016/news-20160725-01.html">new law which the FSFE has
  32. advocated for since 2013</a>. According to the law, Internet Service
  33. Providers (ISPs) can offer their own technical equipment, but they must
  34. not force it upon you. In order to allow for free choice of modems and
  35. routers, ISPs have to provide the necessary information for the
  36. installation and usage of communication equipment and services without
  37. the client having to ask for it and for no charge.</p>
  38. <p>But we soon realised that our ISPs, Unitymedia and Vodafone, were
  39. not willing go through this process. This is a story of soft and hard
  40. barriers, and how to overcome them individually and as a community. It
  41. is important not to ignore the hurdles ISPs put in our way. <a
  42. href="/activities/routers/">Router Freedom</a> offers too many
  43. advantages, including those of independence, security, privacy and
  44. control of our technology, to be ignored.</p>
  45. <figure>
  46. <img
  47. src="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/big/f0bb57b6899e3429728de5051c7b0f44.png"
  48. alt="Four benefits of Router Freedom"/>
  49. <figcaption>
  50. Some of the various benefits of Router Freedom
  51. </figcaption>
  52. </figure>
  53. <h2>Soft barriers</h2>
  54. <p>In November 2019, Lucas experienced a so-called soft barrier
  55. courtesy of Vodafone, his ISP. When he moved to a new flat, he
  56. requested a DSL connection. After waiting for a entire month for the
  57. connection, the ISP's customer service tried to convince Lucas not to
  58. use his own router, stating several times that a private router is more
  59. expensive, hard to install, not secure and could cause damage to the
  60. public network. Besides, something even more concerning was that they
  61. threatened Lucas by saying that in case he insisted having a private
  62. router, they would not be able to provide technical support. All that
  63. said, at least they provided with no delay the necessary login
  64. information.</p>
  65. <p>This behavior is called a "soft barrier" because, although Vodafone
  66. did not prevent Lucas by contractual means to use his private router or
  67. deny vital information for the router configuration (login data),
  68. Vodaphone's customer service subtly tried to convince Lucas to not use
  69. his own router with the customary economic and commercial arguments
  70. that ISPs usually push onto their customers. In most of the cases, it
  71. is sufficient to scare people away from Router Freedom.</p>
  72. <h2>Hard barriers</h2>
  73. <p>In December of the same year, I moved to a new city and chose a
  74. business cable Internet connection offered by Unitymedia (meanwhile
  75. largely incorporated by Vodafone). After several calls, a technician
  76. finally visited my new home and successfully installed the ISP's
  77. default modem. Of course, I immediately noted that I wanted to use my
  78. own router. The technician told me that this was not allowed.</p>
  79. <p>In a call with the service hotline, after defending some of the
  80. already mentioned soft barriers, I learnt that one of the features I
  81. had ordered, a static IPv4 address, is <a
  82. href="https://kabel.vodafone.de/hilfe_und_service/faq/article/question/was-muss-ich-zur-endgeraetefreiheit-wissen">not
  83. available when using an own router</a>, apparently because <a
  84. href="https://www.vodafone.de/business/hilfe-support/unitymedia-faq/hardware.html#ich-habe-feste-ip-adressen-moechte-aber-trotzdem-einen-fremd-router-nutzen-habe-ich-ein-sonderkuendigungsrecht">the
  85. address could only be mapped to their devices</a> – even though my own
  86. router was the exact same model.</p>
  87. <p>Although I am now able to use my own router (after a long series of
  88. hotline calls and waiting), I still cannot use an essential feature I
  89. ordered. This is a "hard barrier" because customers who want to
  90. exercise their freedom of choice are treated worse. At least I can
  91. enjoy the freedom of using equipment which I own and which I can
  92. control, but I will report this misconduct by my ISP to the national
  93. Federal Network Agency and a consumer protection organisation (see
  94. below).</p>
  95. <figure>
  96. <img
  97. src="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/big/10752e931d933d93367d350a6bf2ec66.jpg"
  98. alt="A manikin working on a router"/>
  99. <figcaption>
  100. Picture by Konrad Twardowski, licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0
  101. </figcaption>
  102. </figure>
  103. <h2>How to deal with barriers?</h2>
  104. <p>Everyone should be able to choose their own modem or router. We call this Router Freedom and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must not restrict it. In Europe, and specifically in Germany, this freedom is assured by several directives and laws. It is ironic that we, the two coordinators of the FSFE's Router Freedom campaign, experienced first hand how German ISPs are still reluctant to allow people use their own devices.</p>
  105. <p>In case you are in Europe and your ISP is trying to convince you to use their router, here is a small guide of how to proceed:</p>
  106. <ol>
  107. <li>If they tell you that you are not allowed to use your router,
  108. you can report the fact to the <a
  109. href="https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/national-regulatory-authorities-member-states">National
  110. Regulatory Agency</a> or the <a
  111. href="https://eba.europa.eu/consumer-corner/national-competent-authorities-for-consumer-protection">Consumer
  112. Protection Authority of your region</a>. There may also be
  113. state-independent organisations and platforms to report issues, e.g.
  114. <a
  115. href="https://www.marktwaechter.de/mitmachen/beschwerdeformular">Marktwächter</a>
  116. in Germany. Please share your experience in the <a
  117. href="https://community.fsfe.org/c/activities/router-freedom">FSFE's
  118. forum</a> to help us and others.</li>
  119. <li>If you can use your router, but the ISP refuses to provide the
  120. login data for the public network, this is also a case for the
  121. National Regulatory Agency or Consumer Protection Authority. Please
  122. follow the same procedure explained above.</li>
  123. <li>If you are allowed to use your router, but the ISP refuses to
  124. provide technical support, you must know that every ISP is obliged by
  125. contract to provide technical support in relation to your access to
  126. the Internet. Although they can refuse to support your private
  127. router, all other issues concerning the connection must be handled by
  128. them; and, according to our experience, most issues with routers can
  129. be solved with a quick search on the Internet.</li>
  130. </ol>
  131. <h2>How many people are affected by Router Freedom barriers?</h2>
  132. <p>Germany was one of the first European countries to implement a
  133. Router Freedom law, following the <a
  134. href="/activities/routers/timeline.html">efforts of the FSFE's campaign
  135. for Router Freedom</a>. The number of people using their own routers
  136. has been growing at a slow but steady pace. According to <a
  137. href="https://www.golem.de/news/drei-jahre-routerfreiheit-vodafone-kritisiert-nutzer-mit-eigenem-router-1908-142996.html">latest
  138. reports</a>, Vodafone, the second largest ISP in Germany, has 3,5% of
  139. their cable customers using their own routers. For Unitymedia, a large
  140. cable ISP bought by Vodafone, the number is 2%. </p>
  141. <figure>
  142. <img
  143. src="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/big/0eebfabf3c1893aad52325b0d96a3ace.png"
  144. alt="Router Freedom statistics for Vodafone in Germany"/>
  145. <figcaption>
  146. Router Freedom and Vodafone Germany
  147. </figcaption>
  148. </figure>
  149. <p>Complaints about violations against art. 3(1) of the Net
  150. Neutrality Regulation, which also protects Router Freedom, are growing
  151. faster. The German National Regulatory Agency, the authority
  152. responsible for the monitoring of the net neutrality rules in the
  153. country, has registered this to be an "increasingly important isue" for
  154. the <a
  155. href="https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/EN/Areas/Telecommunications/Companies/MarketRegulation/NetNeutrality/NetNeutralityInGermanyAnnualReport2018_2019.pdf">report
  156. period of 2018-2019</a> (p. 11), although they consider their options
  157. to intervene in such cases to be limited.</p>
  158. <p>The increasing tendency gives us motivation to keep up raising the
  159. flag for Router Freedom. <a href="https://my.fsfe.org/donate">Your
  160. support</a> makes the difference for the awareness spreading about this
  161. simple but powerful idea: free your router!</p>
  162. <h2>Take back your rights!</h2>
  163. <p><a href="/activities/routers/">Router Freedom</a> concerns all of
  164. us. Check out <a
  165. href="https://wiki.fsfe.org/Activities/CompulsoryRouters">our wiki
  166. page</a> where you can find all necessary information to get active
  167. against the disruption of Router Freedom and to raise awareness among
  168. your community and political representatives. Share your experience in
  169. the <a
  170. href="https://community.fsfe.org/c/activities/router-freedom">FSFE's
  171. forum</a> so we can stand together for Router Freedom!</p>
  172. <p>Long-term political and public action for Router Freedom requires
  173. resources. Please consider <a
  174. href="https://my.fsfe.org/support">joining the FSFE as a supporter</a>
  175. and help us continue this and other
  176. activities.</p>
  177. </body>
  178. <discussion href="https://community.fsfe.org/t/fear-uncertainty-and-doubt-the-barriers-to-router-freedom-in-germany/411" />
  179. <tags>
  180. <tag key="front-page"/>
  181. <tag key="routers">Router Freedom</tag>
  182. <tag key="competition">Competition</tag>
  183. <tag key="policy">Policy</tag>
  184. </tags>
  185. <author id="mehl" />
  186. <author id="lasota" />
  187. </html>