UK has been in a state of emergency since March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in this context, Decree-Law No. 10-D / 2020 was approved with new measures that may limit access to Netflix, HBO and even online games.

Here is a summary of the legal diploma. Starting with the objective of the measures, scope, practical application to services such as Netflix, HBO, games online, cable television, among others, without forgetting consumer protection.

The measures exceptional and temporary have been in force since Monday (March 23), giving operators freedom and space to act in case of need. Gradual restrictions are foreseen to prevent saturation of the networks.

The Government provided operators with exceptional and temporary measures

During this period of social isolation, mobile and fixed networks are expected to be overloaded, as a result of staying in homes. For this reason, the Government has created measures to contain the risk of collapse of communications services.

O goal it is to guarantee the maintenance of electronic communications services, but foreseeing an overload on the network systems, urgent measures were adopted. These may or may not be implemented if necessary.

The massification of telework, intense use of entertainment services such as Netflix and online games are some of those responsible for creating these measures. They are measures temporary.

In summary, these are measures that aim to guarantee the provision of fundamental (critical) services to priority customers

Operators can take several measures

Network management will affect, if applied, Netflix, HBO and similar services in 1st place.
  1. Network and traffic management, including capacity reservation on the mobile network
  2. Prioritize network troubleshooting
  3. Propose to the Government other exceptional measures in case of need
  4. Complement the fixed network with systems, means and technology used in mobile networks

The measures are exceptional, cannot be taken for commercial reasons, or maintained beyond what is strictly necessary to avoid network congestion and to overcome troubleshooting.

Among the measures, network and traffic management may come to block Netflix, repetitions on TV, downloads and online games in case of extreme need. To this end, the Government defines 3 degrees of priority for mobile and fixed network services.

There are 3 priorities in mobile network services

  • Priority 1 – Voice and SMS services + Minimum mobile broadband services (above)
  • Priority 2 – Video calls (sd) and VPN supported for teleworking purposes
  • Priority 3 – Video, video games (online gaming), P2P connections and other connections not included in the priorities.

There are 4 priorities in fixed network services

  • Priority 1 – Voice services + Minimum fixed broadband services (above)
  • Priority 2 – Video
  • Priority 3 – Video club services, video platforms and restart TV
  • Priority 4 – Online video games, P2P calls and other calls not included in the priorities.

This means that operators have carte blanche to limit or inhibit certain functions, restrict, degrade, soften, or block services according to the priorities established by the Government. Something that can be applied preventively.

In practice, the first services to be affected would be streaming like Netflix, YouTube, or online games and the possibility of going back on digital TV. “Priority 4” is the lowest and “Priority 1” is the highest.

In accordance with the declaration of state of Emergency, in force, limitations on discharges are authorized (downloads), video games (online gaming) and file transfer (P2P) platforms.

The fundamental untouchable services:

  • Voice (calls) and text (SMS) on the fixed and mobile network
  • Uninterrupted access to emergency services (112) and warning to the population
  • Data service on fixed and mobile networks to a minimum set of services *
  • Distribution of linear and digital terrestrial television (DTT) signals

* The services considered minimums in fixed broadband:

  1. E-mail (access to email)
  2. Search engines (no restrictions on querying information)
  3. Training, education and distance learning tools
  4. Online newspapers and news publications
  5. Online shopping / ordering goods or services
  6. Job search / job search platforms
  7. Professional online calls (via VPN)
  8. Online banking, financial and insurance services
  9. Public administration services online
  10. Social media and instant messaging
  11. Calls and video calls (standard quality)

* The services considered minimums in mobile broadband:

  1. E-mail (access to email)
  2. Search engines (no restrictions on querying information)
  3. Training, education and distance learning tools
  4. Online newspapers and news publications
  5. Online shopping / ordering goods or services
  6. Job search / job search platforms
  7. Online banking, financial and insurance services
  8. Public administration services online
  9. Social media and instant messaging

The minimum set of services must be provided by operators as far as possible, and are listed exhaustively in the Annex to the decree-law.

This means that other services may be gradually restricted as necessary to ensure the maintenance of the above. The decree further stipulates that priority customers will have prevalence over the rest.

As stated in the preamble to the legal text, it is necessary to ensure that healthcare providers, security and internal administration forces and services are not deprived of Internet or communications.

Are considered priority following customers:

  • Ministry of Health services and bodies and the National Health Service network
  • Entities responsible for the Integrated System of Emergency and Security Networks in UK (SIRESP).
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Azores Regional Civil Protection and Fire Service
  • General Staff of the Armed Forces
  • National Security Office and National Cybersecurity Center
  • Public Security Service Posts
  • Regional Civil Protection Service of Madeira
  • Presidency of the Republic
  • Certain public services such as Social Security, IRN
  • ERC, Banco de UK
  • Other operators of essential services

The consumer is also protected

Online gaming can also be one of the first to be affected.

The measures available to operators must be communicated to the Government and the National Communications Authority (ANACOM), before its application, or exceptionally, within 24 hours after its adoption.

In addition, operators are obliged to keep an exhaustive record updated, transparent and auditable. This should include the entities, dates and geographical areas of each case in which the foreseen limitations are applied.

When applied, the measures must be disclosed, within five working days, in the sites of each operator, in a visible place.

Responsible use is called for and obligations are suspended

The Government appeals to the sensitivity of the population and recommends that operators also launch awareness campaigns. In other words, it avoids “grabbing” traffic with 4K videos, opting for the Full-HD standard, or HD, for example.

In addition, while these measures are in force, face-to-face portability is suspended if it requires the movement of technicians to implement / install equipment. If the process can be done online, the deadline is 5 days.

These are the main measures introduced by the decree-law approved by Prime Minister António Costa and the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Pedro Nuno Santos.