Compulsory modem: Warning for Vodafone and German optical fiber

Most German fiber optic providers install a permanently connected fiber optic modem for their customers. This behavior has now given German fiber optics and Vodafone a warning from the consumer advice center in Rhineland-Palatinate. Indeed, fiber optic customers who prefer to use their own modem or an efficient modem-router combination device find it difficult, if not impossible, to do so. The Federal Act on the Selection and Connection of Telecommunications Terminals (TK Terminal Act) prescribes the freedom of terminals.

This law was a reaction to a decision by the Federal Network Agency in 2013. Several DSL customers had complained because they could not operate any router on their connection. Surprisingly, the Federal Network Agency went against the prevailing interpretation of EU law: the German legislator did not define where the network of the Internet service provider (ISP) ends and where the customer’s home network. Therefore, the ISP is “also responsible for deciding whether ‘routers’ are network components or end devices,” the authority said in a notice, “the Federal Network Agency cannot take this decision”. (please refer supplier’s friendc’t 14/2013, p. 80)

At the same time, the Federal Network Agency has found that ISPs are not obliged to provide access codes and passwords for devices installed at customer premises. Affected persons cannot check or change the settings and are powerless in the event of security breaches. Additionally, combo devices that combine a WLAN router and a fiber optic modem typically consume less power than two separate devices.

The legislator took note of this and reacted in 2016 with the law on telecommunications terminal equipment. Since then, it should be clear that customers can connect their own modems to “passive network endpoints” and don’t have to use the ISP’s modem. The practice is generally different: “on the one hand, (the ISP) installs a permanently installed fiber optic modem by default”, reports the consumer advice center of Rhineland-Palatinate, “on the other hand, when ordering , they suggest that the provider a fiber optic modem should be used.”

Because the Federal Network Agency is apparently doing nothing, consumer advocates are taking action: “In order to remedy the situation, the consumer advice center first sought to speak to suppliers and supplier associations” , reports Jennifer Häußer, head of law enforcement at the consumer advice center Rhineland-Palatinate, “However, the providers have been unmoved. Therefore, the consumer advice center now warns two major players of the market.”

If that doesn’t work, consumer advocates can go to court. You want to enforce the freedom to use devices as required by law. They also want the ISP to explain when signing the contract that customers can use their own fiber optic modem or more efficient combo device in addition to their own router. Last but not least, it would boost the terminal market. There are currently few router choices for fiber optic connections.

Incidentally, the consumer advice center advises against renting devices often offered by ISPs. Rental costs would soon exceed the purchase price. The Consumer Advice Center also does not accept the argument that the devices would be replaced at no additional cost in the event of a defect. Finally, the two-year legal warranty applies to purchased devices. In addition, some credit cards offer an extended warranty on products purchased with the card. Several device manufacturers also offer voluntary warranties, sometimes even for five years from the date of purchase.


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