Compulsory routers are a delicate topic and just because of that
very complex. Many government agencies, corporations, and organisations
already contributed to the public discussion and took part in numerous
hearings and comments. Here the FSFE lists the most important events
which lead to the current state and also draws a picture of the future
development of compulsory routers.
Current state and glance into the future
After almost three years of intensive debates, the German Bundestag
passed the law for „choice and connection of telecommunication terminal
devices“. This law unambigously declares compulsory routers invalid and
establishes freedom of choice of terminal devices.
The passed law became effective on August 1 2016. The FSFE monitors
the compliance of the law and asks its supporters, other organisations
and administrations to do the same.
- 01.08.2016: The law comes into effect. From now on all Internet
Service Providers have to enable new clients to use alternative
modems and routers to connect to the internet. The FSFE is monitoring
the implementation by sending out testing devices to volunteers for
them to check whether their ISPs obey the law, and collecting
- 27.11.2015: Although the Federal Council fought the bill
against compulsory routers in the first place, it now does not oppose it
anymore in its last consultation about it.
- 05.11.2015: The German Bundestag passes the
essentially unmodified law and thereby the abolishment of compulsory
- 28.10.2015: The FSFE and nine other
organisations in civil society and economy send a
letter to 132 parliament committee members in which they ask the
MPs to support the bill without any modifications.
- 07.10.2015: The Federal Cabinet and the BMWi
don't grant the demands for examining the draft. In its
writing the Cabinet clearly explains that there's no reason for
departing from the "technologically neutral implementation of
terminal device freedom in Germany" by adding exceptions for certain
providers or devices.
- 25.09.2015: The Federal Council publishes its comments
on the bill. It questiones the draft's essential foundations and
adopts arguments of network providers which only act as
- 12.08.2015: The Federal Cabinet passes the law
bill for router freedom which is seen as positive by the FSFE.
The step follows the European Commission's notification and
commentary term until July 8th. During that phase only a small formal
ambiguity has been criticised.
- 25.02.2015: The German Ministry of Economics published a
law to ban compulsory routers (German). Except missing enforcing measures
FSFE welcomes the draft.
After the further procedures were unclear for a long time, Netzpolitik.org
published an internal revised draft of the transparency bill (German).
The FSFE critisises the
draft because it legitimises the incapacitation of customers. Instead
of prohibiting compulsory routers as decided in the coalition agreement,
the draft enables internet providers to hinder customers who want to use
Together with the CCC and other projects and experts, the FSFE praises the basic
idea in a press release and a
detailed statement (German) but clearly criticises that users are further burdened
and that the proposed test methods are inconsistently considered. Most interestingly,
the formulation of the regulation is substantially weaker than that in the coalition
agreement, and the still-unaddressed question of network termination points is not
After the first large hearing, the Federal Network Agency publishes a
transparency bill that eliminates compulsory routers and should improve the
transparency of telecommunication companies for customers. Comments
may be submitted until the end of March 2014.
After the German Federal Parliament elections in the end of September, the coalition agreement
is officially signed. In it, the CDU, CSU, and SPD clearly speak out against
compulsory routers and demand that
every customer must receive all necessary access information unasked.
Such a clear statement of position from the coalition parties can be explained by
the media response (for example from
Heise (German) and
Netzpolitik (German) as well as
Frankfurter Rundschau (German),
NTV (German) and
and the enormous interest from the population.
- 04.11.2013: The FSFE joins numerous other
organisations and individuals by sending an extensive public statement to the Federal Network Agency (here the press release) upon
completion of the public hearings. The statement contains answers to
almost all the posed questions with specific regard to the existing and
potential disadvantages of compulsory routers.
The majority of the 309 statements argues against compulsory routers.
Unsurprisingly, the only two groups that are in favour are Internet Service Providers
and Network Providers. Notable arguments have been filed by e.g. AVM, CCC,
and Sipgate. The Federal Networking Agency has collected all statements.
- 20.09.2013: The Federal Network Agency starts a public hearing (398/2013)
on the disputed network termination points. At the hearing, many - partly very
technical - questions related to possible definitions are posed which are directly
related to compulsory routers. Just a few days later the FSFE publishes a preliminary statement,
in which it voices serious concerns for security, consumer-friendliness,
- 31.07.2013:: In a second
draft of the "net neutrality regulation", compulsory routers are discussed in §3 (PDF).
Contrary to the first draft, the term used now is “Endgerätenetzneutralität”, which (roughly)
translates to "terminal device net neutrality".
- 25.06.2013: The Federal Network Agency organises a
workshop on the topic of compulsory routers and designs four models for resolution.
- 17.06.2013: The BMWi (Ministry of Economic) presents the draft
of a net neutrality regulation according to §41a Abs.1 TKG (PDF). In §3,
compulsory routers are specifically addressed and rejected.
- 04.06.2013: The federal
government responds to the "minor interpellation" made on the
17th of May. In it, open questions are treated very carefully and responsibilities
are more or less redirected towards the Federal Network Agency. The BMWi
does not consider itself to be part of the topic, since the FNA at this point of
time still is involved in talks with Network Providers and router manufacturers. An article
on Netzpolitik summarises these circumstances thoroughly.
- 17.05.2013: The fraction “DIE LINKE” poses a “minor interpellation”
to the federal government related to the statements made by the Federal Networking Agency.
In it, the question on whether a router qualifies as an access point or a telecommunication
device and in how far the end-user may interfere with it is posed.
- 22.01.2013: Among others, the German manufacturer
of telecommunication devices AVM comments on the issue and
compares the situation with the mobile market, where providers
do not dictate to their customers which phone to use.
- 10.01.2013: The roots of the public debate of compulsory routers
can be found in a reply to an anonymous user
made by the Federal Network Agency.
The user criticises the coupling of his DSL contract with a specific router. He does so in reaction to an extensive article of the professional magazine "PC-WELT",
in which the common practices of DSL providers are criticised.
The Federal Networking Agency deems this behaviour to be justified,
since the DSL provider in question defines the router to be part of the
network and thus the infrastructure he provides. Therefore, the end-user
should and must not exchange it against another device.
Here, the basic conflict becomes clear: the Federal Network Agency cannot
or does not want to decide where the network of the Internet provider ends and
from where the user has full control. Especially in terms of routers that include
a modem and numerous other functions (IAD, Integrated Access Device), there
are many unresolved issues and a need for clear definitions.