Respecting freedom of expression: recent event as to service limitations in Norway, February 2019

According to Telia Company’s Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications, we report on our efforts in relation to requests or demands with potentially serious impacts on freedom of expression in telecommunications. We have logged a request in Norway to shut down the mobile network surrounding airport due to a bomb threat as non-serious, but still see the value of being transparent reporting about the issue, as follows.

Telia Company’s Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications is available here. Governments' requests or demands often serve legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights and the security of the society, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. Telia Company's commitment is to respect freedom of expression also in the context of lawful, necessary and proportionate governments requests.

End of February 2019, Telia Norway was requested, due to a bomb-threat, to shut down the mobile network surrounding a Norwegian airport. The request was first received orally. Telia informed the authority that we immediately started work to shut-down the network, but that we needed the request performed in writing by the competent authority, including a reference to provisions in the law mandating the request.

When having received the request in writing signed by the authorized official and referencing the applicable legal provision and implementing the shut-down, Telia Norway sought as narrow as interpretation of the shut-down as possible and reasonable. (The normal routine for shutting down a mobile network is to take down the signalling to the relevant Controllers, ‘RNC’ for 3G, leading to the take down of many sites. In this specific case, however, Telia Norway left signaling towards the RNC open and was thereby able to block only the cells covering the actual location, with much less impact for our customers).

The shut-down lasted for a little more than an hour. The request was received in writing immediately after the first call and it included reference to a law and paragraph for the request, ‘Straffeloven §17, Nødrett’ (Necessity).

Telia has determined the request as non-serious in relation to freedom of expression.

In relation to the shut-down, Telia Norway representatives were interviewed by the press and informed that that Telia due to a government authority security request had shut down parts of the mobile network in this specific area.

Telia Company, as one of the ten principles in our Group Policy, has publicly committed to comply with requests or demands relating to the surveillance of communications only to the extent required by law, including formal requirements. Telia Company will continue to promote this view, also when in dialogue with Governments and authorities as to service limitations with the aim to promote the rule of law including clear legislation and pre-defined processes.