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<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<html newsdate="2015-09-02">
<title>The long road from compulsory routers to freedom of choice</title>
<h1>The long road from compulsory routers to freedom of choice</h1>
<p>The router. Despite often being dusty it is one
of the most important devices needed for using the internet or phones.
However: Most users in Germany don’t own this device even though it
is located inside their homes and they pay for it.</p>
<p>At least still. Because recently the <a
href=";v=1">Cabinet of Germany, the chief executive body of the Federal Republic of Germany</a>, passed a draft to abolish compulsory routers.
So all users may use a different device from the one the provider delivered
and they may modify it freely.</p>
<h2>What are compulsory routers?</h2>
<p>For a long time it didn’t look as good for those who wanted
to connect their own router to the socket in the wall. Often the
providers don’t publish the account credentials to the customer.
They may deny any support or block the access completely.
This may sound like the sort of problem you want to have but it has
<a href="/activities/routers/">enormous consequences for privacy,
security and competition</a>. In most cases a router handles all
telephone and internet connections. Many devices are full of
security holes. With certain protocols the provider can control the
router remotely. They may then alter the quality of the internetconnection
for certain services. Alternative devices that for example use Free
Software have privacy and security in mind. But the chances of such
devices on such a closed market are slim at best because many users
need to make a great effort as long as the providers don’t go along.
This is a unjustified discrimination against users of Free Software as well as
the producers of such Free devices. We should always maintain full
control over the devices we use.</p>
The key point in the debate about router compulsion is the definition
of the network termination point. This defines, where the public network,
that of the provider, ends, and where that of the customer begins. This
division should actually be the box in the wall, but many providers also
include the provided end device. From this perspective, it is legitimate
to deny the customer the access data for replacement of this device.
With most cable providers, the modem first has to be registered by a
technician in a data center. The technical reasons that supposedly
support this requirement are in fact just a pretense and not technically
valid. In the USA, the market is somewhat liberalised, and the portended
mass network failures are not to be seen.</p>
<h2>What happened previously</h2>
<p><a href="/activities/routers/timeline.html">Since the beginning of
2013,</a> the public debate over compulsory routers has grown,
accompanied by the FSFE. The German Federal Network Agency <a
vague (German)</a> as to whether router compulsion should be <a
href="/news/2014/news-20140929-01.html">legally legitimized,</a> even
after numerous hearings and workshops where not only the FSFE
but also the majority of hundreds of statements spoke out against it.
Eventually, the Federal Ministry of Economy (BMWi) took over at the
end of 2014. The ministry proposed a satisfactory bill and overcame
all necessary hurdles in the legislative process, from ratification by
the EU Commission and the Federal Cabinet. The law is now waiting
for approval of the Federal Parliament and Federal Council.</p>
We would have wished for further legal codification of user rights for
communications devices, but the current situation guarantees a basic
level of user freedom, at least for the intermediate term. In order to
even reach this state, a considerable amount of work was necessary.
As the FSFE, we built up a small team of internal and external experts,
which has created detailed position statements for many of the
hearings of the Federal Network Agency, which dealt with user
freedom in the spirit of Free Software and open standards as well
as economic aspects. Even after the transfer to the Ministry of Economy,
we critically supervised the process in agreement with other organisations
and drew attention to deficiencies and positive developments.</p>
With a modification of the <a
href="">FTEG (German)</a> (Law
on Radio Units and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment) and <a
href="">TKG (German)</a>
(Telecommunications Law), the previous deficiencies should be remedied.
The passive network termination point should be clearly defined, the
operator should be obliged to provide, unprompted, the "necessary
access data and information for the connection of telecommunications
terminal equipment and the use of the telecommunication services,"
and a fine of 10,000 Euro should be set in case they violate these
information requirements.</p>
<h2>It's not over yet</h2>
At the moment, the law is at the Federal Council for opinions and
will afterwards come before the Federal Parliament for three
readings. If the law is adopted, the approval of the Federal
Council is still necessary to abolish the router compulsion six
months after the announcement. In order for this to actually
succeed, we must oversee this process and be sure that the
proposal is not watered down. You can help us with this:
contact your representative so that they pass this law without
any further limitations, in order to ensure this absolute minimum
of end-device freedom, user protection, and security.</p>
After that, it will also be exciting. Will internet providers be
obstructive in supporting the use of user devices? Can all devices
be seamlessly used with alternate routers? Will discrimination of
some sort still take place in spite of this law? We can be happy
about the previous successes, but this topic is too controversial
for the friends of alternative end devices to be lulled into a false
sense of security. For the future Internet of Things, where
refrigerators and thermostats will be accessible via the internet,
routers and end-device freedom in general play a more central
role. We believe that we have not seen the last of this topic, and
that we must establish and protect device freedom in other European
<tag key="routers">Routerzwang</tag>
<tag key="de">Deutschland</tag>
<tag key="policy">Politik</tag>