Wherever you are in the EU you must be able to access electronic communication services of good quality at an affordable price - including basic internet access. There should be at least one internet provider who can provide this service for you. This is known as the "universal service"' principle.
In some specific cases, such as issues with the technical feasibility of a request, your request might not be considered "reasonable" and could be refused.
To find out more, contact the national regulatory authorities in your country. They will put you in touch with your universal service provider.
Jack moved to a remote part of the Scottish countryside and wanted to get an internet connection in his new house there. After several companies had told him their networks didn't cover his area, he finally found out who the universal service provider was in Scotland. He contacted this company, which provided him with an internet connection.
You have the right to access and distribute the online content and services you wish. Your internet provider cannot block, slow down or discriminate against any online content, applications or services, except in 3 specific cases:
- to comply with legal obligations, such as a court order blocking specific illegal content
- to preserve the security and integrity of the network, for example to combat viruses or malware
- to manage exceptional or temporary network congestion
This is known as net neutrality.
John, from the UK, recently started a new job in Germany. He wanted to use a video call app to talk to his family so he could save the cost of phone calls. He was pleased to discover that he had a choice of different video call apps he could use for free over his internet connection.
EU net neutrality rules prohibit internet access providers from blocking applications or asking for extra money to use video call apps.
Subscriptions to internet providers
Your internet provider must give you information on:
- applicable prices, rates and charges, including options and packages
- standard terms and conditions
- quality of service (for example, download speeds).
Laura from Romania wanted to get an internet connection at home, but wasn't sure about the quality of services provided by the various packages on offer.
Luckily - as required by law - all the service providers gave sufficient details on their websites. Laura was also able to get even more information from the Romanian national regulatory authorities for electronic communications.
The internet provider must also:
- notify you well in advance if they want to change the contract (for example, raise their rates)
- allow you to withdraw from the contract without penalty if you don't accept any of the new conditions
- offer reasonable minimum contract periods – a contract for an initial period equal to or shorter than 12 months; contracts that exceed 2 years are illegal
Eric wanted to get an internet connection in his flat during his 1 year stay in London on a university exchange - but was told by several providers that the minimum subscription time was 2 years.
After consulting the national authority for electronic communications and finding out about his rights, Eric contacted the providers again and was able to get a subscription for 1 year only.
Special support for disabled users
If you are a user with disabilities, you are entitled to the same range and choice of services enjoyed by the majority of consumers.
You may also be eligible for special accessibility devices from your service provider - such as magnification software or a screen reader, if you are visually impaired.
Your national regulatory authorities might be able to provide you with more details as regards these accessibility rights.
Véronique, from France, is partially sighted and needs special assistance to read websites.
On a tip from a friend, she contacted the French universal service provider to enquire about getting a screen reader. The provider delivered the software Véronique needed.