Using and accessing the internet
Affected by Brexit?
Getting an internet connection
Wherever you are in the EU you must be able to access good quality electronic communication services at an affordable price - including basic internet access. This is known as the "universal service" provision. There should be at least one internet provider who can provide this service for you.
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.
EU rules on open internet give you the right as a user to access and/or distribute any online content and services you choose. 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
You can access the online content you want
John, from Ireland, 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 rules prohibit internet access providers from blocking applications or asking for extra money to use video call apps.
Contracts with internet providers
Before you sign a contract for internet services, your internet provider must give you information on:
- prices, rates and charges, including options and packages
- standard terms and conditions
- quality of service (for example, download speeds).
After you sign a contract, your 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
Lengthy contracts are illegal
Enrique wanted to get an internet connection in his flat during his 1 year stay in Berlin 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, Enrique contacted the providers again and was able to get a subscription for 1 year only.
Extra support for users with disabilities
If you are a user with disabilities, you are entitled to the same range and choice of services enjoyed by other 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 should be able to provide you with more details about these accessibility rights.
Services should be available for users with disabilities
Véronique, from France, has limited vision and has trouble reading websites.
On advice from a friend, she contacted the French universal service provider to enquire about solutions that would help her. The provider delivered a screen reader that enables Véronique to read and access information online.
Making government websites accessible for all users
Public sector/government websites in EU countries have to respect strict web accessibility standards. Accessible websites give all users equal access to a website's information and functionalities. Content should also be compatible with all browsers, devices, software and assistive technologies such as screen readers.
EU accessibility rules don't apply to websites and mobile apps owned by public service broadcasters and live audiovisual material. In some EU countries, the rules also don't apply to schools, kindergartens and nurseries.
EU accessibility standards
In practice, the EU public sector websites you visit should respect certain accessibility requirements, including:
- having a clear accessibility statement
- using alternative text for non-text content, such as photos and videos
- using subtitles on pre-recorded audiovisual content
- ensuring their content is correctly structured and uses clearly indicated elements (for example, headings and links) - this makes it easier if you need to use an assistive technology such as a screen reader
- using descriptive and easily understandable links, headings and labels
- ensuring that you can navigate on the page using only your keyboard
- allowing you to review and correct forms before you send them
- clearly marking and explaining any errors you made while filling in a form
Some public sector/government websites you use are already applying these standards, and all public sector websites have to meet them by 23 September 2020. Public sector mobile apps have until 23 June 2021 to meet EU accessibility standards.
More information on international web accessibility standards is available from W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium).