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Electronic communications have different rules during a State of Emergency. What can change?

Whenever strictly necessary, communication service providers can manage the capacity of their networks, giving priority to mobile traffic first and then fixed network.

They may also limit or inhibit certain features, namely access to streaming video or music services, non-linear TV services, P2P services or gaming platforms.

The Decree-Law also reserves one of the articles to raise public awareness, indicating to companies that offer public communications networks or electronic communications services accessible to the public that should alert their customers to the possibility that the experience of using the services may change during the epidemic.

Operators are also encouraged to promote guides to good practices and responsible use of networks and services among citizens and companies, in order to maximize the availability of electronic communications networks for the provision of critical services.

The Decree-Law also provides for the suspension of current obligations and the adequacy of legal rules, namely compliance with the quality of service parameters, compliance with deadlines for responding to complaints from end users, presented through the physical or electronic complaints book. or the fulfillment of the portability obligation, whenever it implies the displacement of technicians to accomplish it.

Simplification measures are also foreseen, such as the exemption of the participation of police forces in the interventions necessary to ensure the replacement of critical services.

Know in detail the measures defined by the Government in the area of ??communications, in the current context of the State of Emergency.

Which services are considered critical?

  • Voice and short message (SMS) services supported on fixed and mobile networks;
  • Uninterrupted access to emergency services, including information on the location of the person making the call, and the uninterrupted transmission of warnings to the population;
  • Data supported on fixed and mobile networks;
  • Distribution of linear television and digital terrestrial television signals.

Which customers are considered priority?

  • Services and bodies of the Ministry of Health and entities providing health care integrated into the network of the National Health Service;
  • Entities responsible for the management, operation and maintenance of the Integrated System of Emergency and Security Networks in Portugal, regarding the functioning of this system;
  • Ministry of Internal Administration, regarding the functioning of the National Internal Security Network and the National Emergency and Civil Protection Authority;
  • Regional Civil Protection and Fire Service of the Azores, regarding the functioning of the integrated emergency telecommunications network of the Autonomous Region of the Azores;
  • General Staff of the Armed Forces and branches of the Armed Forces, regarding the functioning of the information systems and information and communication technologies necessary for the exercise of command and control in the Armed Forces;
  • The National Security Office, regarding the functioning of the National Cybersecurity Center;
  • Public Security Service Posts
  • The Regional Civil Protection Service of Madeira;
  • Services to support the functioning of the Presidency of the Republic, the Representatives of the Republic in the Autonomous Regions, the Assembly of the Republic, the Regional Legislative Assemblies, the Government and the Regional Governments;
  • Certain public services especially lacking support, such as, namely, Social Security, the Institute of Registries and Notaries, IP, with regard to the services of the online citizen card and the digital mobile key, the Management Center of the Government Information Network , the Electronic Republic Directory, the Agency for Administrative Modernization, IP, the National Martial Authority and the National Aeronautical Authority;
  • The Regulatory Entity for Social Communication, Banco de Portugal and the independent administrative entities provided for in no. 3 of article 3 of Law no. 67/2013, of August 28, in its current wording;
  • Operators of essential services identified under the terms of Law no. 46/2018, of 13 August, which establishes the legal regime for cyberspace security;
  • Critical infrastructure owners or operators;
  • The Ministry of Education, including clusters of schools and non-clustered schools in the public education network, private, cooperative and social and solidarity education establishments, and other entities providing distance education services, as well as entities that provide tools online training and education.

What exceptional decisions can operators make to ensure the continuity of critical services?

  1. Network and traffic management, including capacity reservation on the mobile network;
  2. Prioritization in the resolution of malfunctions and disturbances in electronic communications networks and services.

If necessary, operators can propose to the Government to adopt other exceptional measures. They are also authorized to replace critical services supported on fixed networks through systems, means and technology used in mobile networks.

All exceptional measures must be carried out in a proportional, transparent manner, and cannot be based on commercial reasons or maintained for longer than is strictly necessary to ensure the continuity of services in situations of network congestion and to overcome the troubleshooting.

How are priorities managed if it is necessary to reserve capacity for critical services and prevent congestion?

Whenever strictly necessary, operators must give priority to the routing of certain categories of traffic, in the following order:

Mobile network

  1. Voice and SMS services and data services such as:
    • Electronic mail;
    • Search engines, which allow you to search and consult all types of information;
    • Basic training and educational tools online and distance learning;
    • Online newspapers or news;
    • Buying or ordering goods or services online;
    • Job search and job search tools;
    • Banking, financial and insurance services via the Internet;
    • Use of public administration services online;
    • Social media and instant messaging.
  2. Video calls (standard quality) and VPN supported on mobile network that support teleworking;
  3. Video, online video games (online gaming) and point-to-point connections (P2P), as well as all other traffic categories not mentioned in the previous priorities.

Fixed network

  1. Voice and data services such as
    • Electronic mail;
    • Search engines, which allow you to search and consult all types of information;
    • Basic training and educational tools online and distance learning;
    • Online newspapers or news;
    • Buying or ordering goods or services online;
    • Job search and job search tools;
    • Professional networking (e.g. VPN connections);
    • Banking, financial and insurance services via the Internet;
    • Use of public administration services online;
    • Social media and instant messaging;
    • Calls and video calls (standard quality).
  2. Video;
  3. Non-linear audiovisual services, namely video club, video platforms and restart TV;
  4. Online video games and point-to-point connections (P2P), as well as all other traffic categories not mentioned in the previous priorities.

Operators can also limit or inhibit certain functionalities, namely non-linear audiovisual services, such as the video club, video platforms and restart TV, and access to online gaming services and online connections -a -point (P2P), if necessary.

In addition, telecommunications companies are also authorized to:

  • Opt for other network management and traffic measures, such as blocking, slowing down, altering, restricting or degrading content;
  • Take specific traffic of interpersonal communication services, through instant messaging or voice applications, without restrictions;
  • To reserve, on a preventive basis, network capacity or resources on mobile networks for voice and SMS services.

The network management and traffic measures provided for can only be adopted to ensure the services considered critical and must be communicated to the Government and National Communications Authority (ANACOM) before their implementation or within 24 hours after their adoption, when the urgency of the situation does not allow early communication.

It is mandatory to keep an exhaustive, up-to-date, transparent and auditable record, with the identification of the entities, dates and geographical areas of each case in which the limitations are implemented.

What happens if there are breakdowns or disturbances in the communication networks?

Operators must give priority to resolving the situation on the networks and services of customers considered to be a priority.