In July, the Federal Network Agency (FNA) announced that
draft proposal for new transparency rules will be forwarded to
the German parliament for approval soon. The rules shall enter into
force in autumn this year. The proposed new rules would prevent
German Internet service providers (ISPs) from obliging their
customers to use a company-branded router. Moreover, ISPs would
have to inform their customers that their terminal equipment is
interchangeable and, upon request, provide them with all details
required for installing alternative router hardware.
Branded routers have been under scrutiny for quite some time in
Germany. ISPs argue that standardized routers make technical
support easier and better protect their network operations.
Consumers' associations challenge these arguments in light of
the security risks inherent in homogenous network ecosystems. They
also claim that consumers were illegitimately restricted in freely
choosing their preferred network hardware and utilizing Internet
services blocked by branded routers. Producers of routers, in
addition, claim that exclusive co-operations between ISPs and
elected hardware producers are preventing effective
Initially, the FNA denied its competence to cope with these
concerns since ISPs had classified their routers as part of their
networks. Accepting this definition, the FNA held that the outlets
of the branded router – and not the wall plug to which the
branded router is connected – marks the network termination
point (NTP). As a consequence, the routers fell out of scope of the
Regulation of Telecommunication Terminal Equipment which would have
given consumers the choice of terminal equipment connected to the
network at their side of the NTP (cp. recital (6) of the Universal
Following complaints against this practice and driven by a
governmental commitment in the coalition agreement of the current
government, the FNA had initiated a survey in 2013 asking telecoms
providers and consumers to define the NTP from their perspective.
Even in light of the answers received, though, the FNA refrained
from including a definition of the NTP in the aforementioned draft
set of rules. Thus, it remains questionable whether the FNA will
apply the new transparency rules also to so-called
"multifunctional" routers commonly deployed by
triple-play ISPs which, inter alia, provide essential network
functionality at the ISP's side of the NTP.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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