The European alliance of manufacturers of telecommunication terminal equipment VTKE wants us to move towards a free choice of modem in Belgium as well.
In the Netherlands, the free choice of modem has already shown its many advantages, says the VTKE. Our northern neighbors celebrate on 28 January that they have been able to choose their modem freely for one year now. In concrete terms, this means that end users can choose their own modem and therefore do not necessarily have to use the device supplied by the provider. In Belgium, you are currently still obliged to use your provider’s modem if you want a connection with them. “But that equipment does not always match your own needs,” says the VTKE.
Lucas Lasota, Router Freedom Coordinator at Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) explains: “Network operators have restricted end users by discouraging them from using their own routers/modems. In comparison, if today in Europe we have the right to choose our own smartphones, regardless of the provider, then the same freedom should apply to routers and modems.
Free modem choice opens up possibilities
If end users are allowed to choose their own modem, this opens up a lot of possibilities. This way they can choose the device that offers the functionalities, updates and security that best suits their home situation. This opens up perspectives, especially in the field of smart home and cyber security. According to the VTKE, a free choice of modem stimulates a wider range of devices. This also benefits competition and, in the long term, innovation and favorable pricing.
“In a one-size-fits-all business model, not all innovations end up with the end user,” explains a VTKE spokesperson. “A free market stimulates innovation and gives end users the opportunity to choose according to their needs and budget.”
Belgium lags behind
Finland was the first European country where consumers could choose their own modem. That was already the case in 2014. This was followed by Germany (2016), Italy (2018) and, in 2022, the Netherlands as well. The VTKE had a survey conducted by market research institute Kantar (between 3 and 7 February 2022 and among Belgians between 16 and 65 years old). It showed that 77 percent of Belgians would like to have freedom of choice. Currently, 24 percent use their own device on their connection, if the provider allows it. The majority (about 62 percent) still use the modem supplied by the provider.
The decision on a free choice of modem in Belgium rests with the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT), but it has not yet been taken. However, with Regulation 2015/2120, the European Union has been striving for a free choice of modem since 2015.
“In recent months, progress has been made,” says the VTKE. “Last October, BIPT published a first provisional draft decision on the definition of the network termination point. By specifying the network termination point on the ‘junction box to the line’, the draft decision would allow the Belgian end user the free choice of terminal equipment for all broadband technologies (fiber, cable and DSL). Furthermore, BIPT states that no technical reason stands in the way of free modem choice in Belgium,” it sounds.
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