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<html newsdate="2023-12-01">
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<head>
<title>Austria goes against Router Freedom </title>
</head>
<body>
<h1>Austria goes against Router Freedom </h1>
<p>The Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and
Telecommunications, RTR, has decided not to regulate the network
operators with regard to Router Freedom, allowing ISPs to impose their
equipment to consumers. For RTR, routers configured in “bridge mode” is
synonymous with terminal equipment freedom. The FSFE laments this
decision as a missed opportunity for Net Neutrality in the country.
</p>
<figure>
<img src="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/original/9f/ec/5ea9fb812fdccd5e90966ebe309f.png"
alt="Illustration about the network termination point showing a modem, as a private network, and the connecting internet point, as a public communication network" />
<figcaption>The Austrian regulator RTR has decided to not formally determine the position of the NTP. It means that end-users cannot freely use their modems for internet connection.</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>In 2016, the Net Neutrality regulation established, for the first
time in Europe, <a href="https://download.fsfe.org/routers/fsfe-router-freedom-activity-summary.pdf">freedom of terminal equipment for internet connection</a>.
It means, in theory, consumers would be able to choose and use their
own routers and modems independently from those provided by the
internet service providers (ISPs). However, <a href="https://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/router-freedom-tracker_581123#4/53.12/18.37">the practical realisation
of this right has followed not a linear process</a>, but has been marked by
several difficulties, including the 2018 reform of EU telecom law, the
implementation of technical rules, and the resistance from national
regulators to interfere in the activities of operators.
While several countries such as Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium have
decided on the <a href="/tags/tagged-routers.html">full regulatory protection of Router Freedom</a>, other EU
members have followed other paths, preferring to exclude fiber
networks (as Greece and Italy) or deciding completely against freedom
of terminal equipment, as in Latvia, Denmark and now Austria. </p>
<h2>Consumer protection falls short.</h2>
<p>In November 2023, the Austrian telecom regulator RTR has published <a href="https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20231110_OTS0116/rtr-schliesst-evaluierung-der-routerfreiheit-ab">a
decision on the evaluation of Router Freedom and the position of the
network termination point (NTP)</a>, a demarcation of the limits of the
public and private networks. The regulator has concluded to not
regulate Router Freedom due to some alleged factors, including the
limited usage by end-users of private routers and the enhanced
operational costs for network operators. RTR has also claimed that the
mere fact that Austrian providers already offer for end-users the
possibility to connect their own router to the ISPs modem in “bridge
mode” would signify freedom of terminal equipment. This , as we explain
below, is a contradiction in itself. Of particular concern is RTRs
statement affirming that there is currently insufficient evidence of
significant restrictions on Router Freedom for a relevant proportion
of users (page 3).</p>
<h2>A lost opportunity for Net Neutrality</h2>
<p>RTRs position fails
to capture the notion of Router Freedom as a fundamental aspect of Net
Neutrality, as it has a profound impact on how end-users access the
Internet. Router Freedom is the hardware component of Net Neutrality,
and its protection should be understood not only from the market
perspective, but should embrace its nature as an essential element of
the Open Internet.</p>
<p>Formally defining the position of the <a href="/news/2020/news-20200601-01.html">NTP at Point A</a> would
officially include the modem and router under the end-user premises,
and the public network would initiate from the plug on the wall. That
would signify complete freedom of terminal equipment. RTRs decision
instead only guarantees that end-users can connect their routers to
ISPs modems in “bridge mode”. Since operators can still impose their
modems inside end-users premises, it cannot be considered compliant
with Router Freedom.</p>
<p>Early on in 2021, when Austria was in the process of implementing
the reform of the telecom sector, the FSFE, together with
epicenter.works, has urged the Austrian government to safeguard Router
Freedom in the new adopted legislation. <a href="/news/2021/news-20210506-01.html">We have warned back</a> then that
in case the decision on Router Freedom would be delegated to the
national regulatory agency (RTR) this could lead to solutions against
consumer rights and interests.</p>
<p>In 2022,<a href="/news/2022/news-20220420-01.html">we engaged with a wide range of stakeholders</a>, including
representatives from industry and policy makers to demonstrate why
Router Freedom is important for market competition, device innovation,
and sustainability. We urged at the time RTR to seize the opportunity
to establish Router Freedom in Austria by defining the NTP in a
position favourable to consumer interests.</p>
<p>In May 2023, we sent to RTR our <a href="/news/2023/news-20230515-02.html">report on the Router Freedom survey</a>,
demonstrating how Internet Service Providers (ISPs) still hamper
consumer freedom of choice, exercise lock-in over internet equipment
and promote proprietary devices, negatively affecting consumer welfare,
security, privacy and data protection. Although more than 13% of the
participants were Austrians, the regulator has not provided feedback on
this.</p>
<figure>
<img src="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/original/f7/ba/b3eeb6363c93efb45456a6aa8e11.jpg"
alt="Graphic showing the participants of the survey answers regarding the importance of Router Freedom principles" />
<figcaption>The vast majority of participants of our survey agreed that Router Freedom is important for freedom of choice, privacy, security and fair competition. More than a market or tech issue, Router Freedom is a policy demand.
</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>Besides, while other member states regulators have conducted open
consultations and produced <a href="/news/2023/news-20231113-02.html">comprehensive reports and detailed studies</a>
regarding Router Freedom, RTR has not provided any relevant data, nor
conducted consultation procedures where civil society stakeholders were
broadly involved. This lack of transparency negatively affects the
monitoring on Open Internet in the country.</p>
<p>The FSFE laments how RTR was not able to find a balance among
business, investments considerations, and consumer protection,
preferring to align themselves with telecom operators instead of taking
a step towards Net Neutrality and Open Internet.</p>
<h2>Aiming at the future: there will be room for improvement</h2>
<p>As affirmed by RTR, the present decision has not a definitive
character, and the regulator will re-evaluate this framework in the
future. No deadlines nor a time schedule were informed, though.
Although we regret the long period such regulatory decisions normally
take place, there will be still room for improvement, and we will
continue to closely monitor the situation in Austria.</p>
<p>Zooming out, as an example, in <a href="https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/e1f1154f-ee2f-11ed-a05c-01aa75ed71a1">a study conducted on behalf of the
European Commission</a>, Router Freedom was considered one of the
priorities for the proper implementation of Net Neutrality in Europe.
Regulators have to take uttermost account of this freedom when
designing their policies for the telecommunications sector. Besides,
emerging issues regarding devices, optical fiber networks and satellite
connections are still under intense debate on different levels at the
EU and member states. Aspects of <a href="/news/2022/news-20220510-01.html">sustainability of the telecom sector</a>
are also been discussed. All those elements have been monitored by the
FSFE, and Router Freedom will be an important element for policy
making.</p>
<figure>
<img src="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/big/e15021d00f32dc067d894525d6213354.png"
alt="Illustration with the reasons why Router Freedom needs Free Software" />
<figcaption>Router Freedom enables the right to repair and promotes fair competition. Free Software in a router can greatly extend the devices lifespan and increase energy management. These advantages can lead to major wins in future policy making.</figcaption>
</figure>
<h2>The Router Freedom initiative</h2>
<p><a href="/activities/routers/index.html">Router Freedom</a> is the right that customers of any Internet Service Provider (ISP) are able to
choose and use a private modem and router instead of equipment provided
by the operator. 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 <a href="/news/2021/news-20210330-01.html">ways to get involved</a>. Please consider <a href="/donate?mtm_campaign=routers">becoming a FSFE donor</a>;
you help make possible our long-term engagement and professional
commitment in defending peoples rights to control technology.
</p>
</body>
<tags>
<tag key="front-page"/>
<tag key="at">Austria</tag>
<tag key="routers">Router Freedom</tag>
<tag key="deviceneutrality">Device Neutrality</tag>
</tags>
<discussion href="https://community.fsfe.org/t/1111"/>
<image url="https://pics.fsfe.org/uploads/original/9f/ec/5ea9fb812fdccd5e90966ebe309f.png"
alt="Illustration about the network termination point showing a modem, as a private network, and the connecting internet point, as a public communication network" />
</html>