The Dutch government wants everyone living in the Netherlands to have access everywhere and at all times to fast, digital communication such as the Internet, telephony and online television. To achieve this, consumers and companies need suitable equipment (including terminal equipment) such as Internet modems, routers and TV decoders. Some telecom providers, such as cable companies and phone companies, consider such equipment to be part of the public network and it is common practice for them to supply it for a fee as part of their contracts. This means that customers are not at liberty to choose the equipment of their preference. This is about to change and you can share your view on the matter.

'Network termination point' clarified

Section 1.1. of the Dutch Telecommunications Act defines the physical point between a public electronic communications network and a private network of a telecom end-user as a 'network termination point'. Equipment at a subscriber’s location must be connected directly or indirectly at that point to be able to use an electronic communication service. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (“the Ministry”) is working on a policy rule that will define this physical network termination point as the point where the connection enters a house. This means that equipment such as modems and modem/router combinations will in the future no longer be part of the public electronic communications network but will instead be part of customers’ private networks.

Consequences: free choice of equipment and improved competition

The foregoing means that in 2018 users will have the opportunity to choose terminal equipment of their liking that satisfies their wishes for telecommunication services and that they will no longer automatically be stuck with equipment supplied by their providers. The imminent policy rule ensues from Commission Directive 2008/63/EC of 20 June 2008, which aims to improve competition in the markets in telecommunications terminal equipment. Having a freer choice of equipment, which will also create room for more equipment providers to enter this market, will give an impulse to unobstructed trade and should create more competition in the equipment market. Apart from the number of users who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to select a modem of their choice, having a free choice of modems could also have a positive effect on value for money. It should be noted that telecom providers will be able to continue to provide their services including this equipment (and the maintenance of this equipment) to their end-users, for example when concluding contracts, as the policy rule merely provides that telecom providers must also allow equipment from other manufacturers at the request of their customers.

It is inherent in the policy on free trade in terminal equipment that consumers and companies will be personally responsible for securing self-purchased terminal equipment. It is for that reason that telecom providers have expressed their concerns about the consequences that the free choice of modems will have for the security of private networks. The Ministry has stated that sufficient precautions will be in place since the network standards used must be announced to allow manufacturers of terminal equipment to render them suitable for those standards.

Internet consultation

To assess whether all relevant consequences of this policy rule have been sufficiently highlighted, it is essential to get input from the entire sector, which is why the Ministry has launched the Internet consultation on the 'Policy rule on network termination points'. Telecom providers, manufacturers of telecom terminal equipment and end-users of telecommunication services in particular could have an interest in submitting their opinions. The Ministry had asked that responders focus their input on the questions of whether the decree is sufficiently clear on the position of the network termination point; whether the decree covers all relevant situations and is sufficiently future-proof; whether specific pros and cons for particular user groups have not been properly highlighted and whether in terms of the themes competition and security of public networks there are aspects that may require further consideration. One of the purposes of the consultation is to add further focus to the arguments. As such, the Ministry does not rule out the possibility that the consultation will shed light on new aspects of the areas mentioned above. The draft proposal is available for input until 15 February 2018. State Secretary Keijzer expects that end-users will be able to choose alternatives for standard equipment supplied by providers as early as mid-2018.