Internet: Higher data rates and new rules for domain names
Bern, 05.11.2014 - As part of the universal service, the minimum data rates for broadband internet connections will be doubled. This is one of the consequences of the Federal Council's approval of various amendments to ordinances in the telecommunications sector. These amendments improve transparency and the indication of prices for telecommunications services and value-added services and strengthen the means available to the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) in order to combat frequency spectrum interference. Management of the ".ch" and ".swiss" domains will in future be regulated in an independent Ordinance on Internet Domains (ODI), the text of which has also been approved by the Federal Council. These new provisions will enter into force on 1 January 2015 and 1 July 2015, respectively.
The amendments to ordinances approved by the Federal Council make provision for doubling the internet access speed which Swisscom must offer its customers within the framework of the universal service. Since 1 March 2012, the downlink bit rate (from the network to the user) has been set at 1000 kbit/s and the uplink bit rate has been 100 kbit/s. In future these bit rates will change to 2000/200 kbit/s. The price ceiling of CHF 55 per month (excluding VAT) for a connection affording such access to the internet will remain unchanged.
The Federal Council has also improved consumer protection in the area of value-added services by strengthening the provisions relating to the indication of prices. The price of services offered via the internet must be indicated clearly at the location where the consumer has to click in order to accept an offering or in the immediate vicinity of this location. In addition, telecommunications service providers will no longer be able to bill supplements to indicated prices, e.g. for call setup or for the duration of a call to a value-added service number. Calls to 0800 numbers will therefore be genuinely free of charge, whether calling from a landline or a mobile phone.
Price transparency has also been improved in relation to calls to corporate numbers (058). When the call is established, customers must be informed, simply, free of charge and without any advertising, if call charges that are higher than calls to numbers with an area code will be billed for such calls. Finally, measures have been taken to combat the misuse of Swiss telephone numbers in order to make advertising calls ("spoofing"). In future, telecommunications service providers will be able to block such calls in agreement with the holders of these numbers.
These amendments are embodied in the Ordinance on Telecommunications Services (OST), Ordinance on the Indication of Prices (OIP) and Ordinance on Addressing Resources in the Telecommunications Sector (ORAT).
Strengthening of means for combating interference
OFCOM may in future recover the costs of locating the source of interference from users of electrical appliances or telecommunications installations that cause such interference, except in cases where both the equipment affected by interference and the interfering equipment are fully compliant. OFCOM is increasingly having to deal with interference caused by incorrect installation of electrical appliances or telecommunications installations which can be due to failure to comply with the manufacturer's instructions or recognised codes of engineering practice. In the latter case, installers may be held liable. Furthermore, OFCOM also receives a certain number of reports of interference which are unfounded; most of these cases involve appliances that are not operating correctly because they are faulty. These measures are intended to encourage individuals to first inspect - or arrange inspection - of their electrical appliance or telecommunications installation before contacting OFCOM.
The Ordinance on Telecommunications Installations (OIT), Ordinance on Frequency Management and Radiocommunication Licences (OGC) and Ordinance on Electromagnetic Compatibility (OCEM) have been amended accordingly.
Publication of a list of installations that risk causing interference
OFCOM has also supplemented the information available to consumers and market participants: it publishes on the internet information regarding electrical appliances that have been declared technically non-compliant and which risk causing interference. This tool is intended to enable consumers to avoid purchasing problematic appliances and to enable vendors to avoid importing and selling them.
Ordinance for the ".ch" and ".swiss" domain names
The new Ordinance on Internet Domains (ODI) makes provision for separating the registry function (administration of internet website database) from the registrar function (commercialisation of domain names). The SWITCH Foundation has been tasked with managing domain names under the top-level country code ".ch" 31 until March 2015. It can therefore continue to perform both roles until this date. However, the regulations have had to be revised in order to match global developments. The new delegated authority's mandate which will be put out to tender will entrust to the registry the task of organising, administering and centrally managing the ".ch" domain. The registrars will market ".ch" domain names which will continue to be assigned to interested parties on a "first come, first served" basis.
The ODI makes provision for the registry/registrar model to also be used as the basis for the new ".swiss" generic top-level domain name whose management has been entrusted to the Swiss Confederation by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body which is responsible for the system for internet addresses and names at the international level. ".swiss" domain names must serve and promote the interests of the Swiss community. Also, only entities that are based in Switzerland or who have a special connection with the country may request a ".swiss" domain name directly from OFCOM who will itself assume the registry function. This new domain will become operational during the course of next year.
Just as the Swiss Confederation did for the ".swiss" extension, other Swiss public authorities may ask the ICANN to delegate a top-level extension. The ODI also sets out provisions for the management of any such new extensions.
Address for enquiries
Annalise Eggimann, Vice-Director and Co-Head of the Telecom Services Division
+41 58 460 55 82, email@example.com
The Federal Council
General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC
Federal Office of Communications