Mandatory modem: Warning for Vodafone and German optical fiber

Most German fiber optic suppliers install a permanently connected fiber optic modem for their customers. This behavior gave Deutscherglas Fiber and Vodafone a warning from the Rhineland-Palatinate Consumer Advice Center. This is because fiber optic customers who prefer to use their own modem or an efficient modem-router combo device find it difficult or impossible to do so. The Federal Act on the Selection and Connection of Telecommunications Terminals (TK Terminal Equipment Act) prescribes the freedom of terminal equipment.

This law was a reaction to a decision by the Federal Network Agency in 2013. Several DSL customers had complained that they could not use any routers on their connection. Surprisingly, the Federal Network Agency opposed the prevailing interpretation of EU law: the German legislature did not define where the Internet provider’s (ISP) network ends and where the customer’s home network begins. Therefore, the ISP is “also responsible for deciding whether the ‘routers’ are network components or end devices,” the authority said in a notice, “The Federal Network Agency cannot make this decision.” (please refer friend of the supplierc’t 14/2013, S. 80)

At the same time, the Federal Network Agency found that ISPs are not required to provide access codes and passwords for devices installed at customers. Data subjects can neither check nor change settings and are powerless in the event of security gaps. Also, combined devices that combine a WLAN router and a fiber optic modem usually draw less power than two separate devices.

The legislator acknowledged and reacted in 2016 with the Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Act. By then it should be clear that customers can connect their modems to “passive network termination points” and do not need to use the ISP’s modem. The practice is usually different: “On the one hand, (the ISP) installs a permanently installed fiber optic modem by default,” reports the Rhineland-Palatinate Consumer Advice Center, “on the other hand , when ordering, suggest that the provider should use a fiber optic modem. “

As the Federal Network Agency is doing nothing, consumer advocates are taking steps: “To remedy the situation, the consumer advisory center first tried to speak with suppliers and supplier associations,” he reports. Jennifer Häußer, head of law enforcement at the Rhineland-Palatinate Consumer Advice Center, “However, the suppliers have been unrepentant. Therefore, the Consumer Advice Center has now warned two major players in the market”.

If that doesn’t work, consumer advocates can go to court. You want to enforce the freedom of the device 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 a more efficient combination device in addition to their router. Last but not least, this would stimulate the end device market. There are currently few router choices for fiber optic connections.

Incidentally, the Consumer Advisory Center does not recommend renting the devices that ISPs often offer. The rental costs would soon exceed the purchase price. Even the Consumer Advice Center 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 guarantee applies to the devices purchased. Additionally, some credit cards offer an extended warranty on products purchased with the card. Several device manufacturers also offer voluntary warranties, sometimes up to five years from the date of purchase.


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