What happens when you switch ISPs – but you don’t own the router

Fibre customers who want to move between ISPs may be expected to give back their router when they switch providers.

To make use of a fibre line, customers require an ONT (optical network terminal) to be installed in their house by a fibre network operators (FNO), which is then connected to an appropriate router to provide connectivity for devices in the house.

Many of the packages on offer from ISPs are built on agreements which allow them to offer a free-to-use router to customers while they use the ISP’s services.

While in certain cases the customer is entitled to the router after paying their subscription fees over a period – for example, after 12 months – it should be noted other agreements effectively mean customers are only renting the router.

This matter was recently highlighted by a dispute between fibre network operator MetroFibre and its reseller TITC SA, which was brought to the attention of MyBroadband by a user.

The issue resulted in around 2,000 fibre customers being left to seek an alternative ISP – and possibly buy a new router – with less than a month’s notice.

TITC and MetroFibre

MetroFibre told MyBroadband it had been in a dispute with TITC for several months regarding its failure to make payment of all amounts due to the FNO.

In accordance with the terms of the agreement, MetroFibre terminated its contract with TITC with effect from 14 May 2020 and subsequently informed the reseller’s customers that they would have to switch to another ISP to remain connected.

“The termination could not have been unforeseen by TITC as MetroFibre has been in discussions with TITC regarding the incomplete payments since last year.”

“In terms of our agreement with our resellers, we are not allowed to contact their customers directly and were only able to do so after 14 May when the agreement was terminated with TITC,” MetroFibre explained.

Initially, it informed customers their services with TITC would be suspended from 1 July. However, this changed when TITC sent a follow-up email to its customers after implying that TITC would continue to render services.

MetroFibre said this was done despite TITC being aware they would not be able to provide the services, as MetroFibre is the underlying infrastructure owner and service provider for most of their customers. 

We moved the date up to 1 June to limit further financial exposure for customers,” the company said. 

MetroFibre said it continued to provide connectivity to all of TITC’s customers for several months despite not receiving the full amounts it was owed each month.

When MyBroadband sent questions to TITC on the matter, they responded with the same update mail they previously sent customers.

Router belongs to MetroFibre

MetroFibre further informed TITC customers that the router which provides their Internet connectivity – the Calix 844G – was their property.

“MetroFibre resellers use the MetroFibre Calix ONT, which is also a router – a combined solution.  No additional router is required,” the company explained.

It said end users are not charged for the device and it is retrieved and replaced with a normal Calix 803 ONT if the customer cancels their agreement with one of MetroFibre’s resellers.

“This then requires the [new] ISP to install a router on top of the ONT in order to manage the service they deliver to their customers. These routers vary in make and functionality from one ISP to another.”

However, if they were to migrate to another reseller on the MetroFibre Network, no substitution of equipment is required and the Calix router will remain with the customer.

“There is no need to swop equipment if the customer migrates to MetroFibre or another reseller on our network and therefore no risk that they will be without Internet for any period of time,” MetroFibre noted.

MetroFibre explained TITC customers are able to migrate to any ISP on its network, but warned of a possible loss of Internet connectivity if the new router is not delivered on time.

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What happens when you switch ISPs – but you don’t own the router