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All of the UK’s Big ISPs Commit to Voluntary Code to Protect an Open Internet

Monday, January 19th, 2015 (10:50 am) - Score 1,007

The Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG), a government policy think-tank, reports that all of the United Kingdom’s “leading” Internet Service Providers (ISP) have, after nearly three years of waiting, finally signed-up to their Voluntary Code of Practice in support of the Open Internet (Net Neutrality).

Anybody with a long memory of this industry will recall that the voluntary Open Internet Code of Practice, which broadly intended to ensure “the provision of full and open internet access” and to prevent ISPs using Traffic Management practices to “degrade the services of a competitor“, was finally published in 2012.

At its launch the code was signed by 10 of the major telecoms and Internet access operators, although EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone all shunned it over concerns that the code was either too vague or not practical enough to meet the modern day reality of Internet provision.

The 3 Core Open Internet Code Commitments

1. Ensure that full and open internet access products, with no blocked services, will be the norm within their portfolio of products.

2. Provide greater transparency in instances where certain classes of legal content, applications and/or services are unavailable on a product. These products will not be marketed as “internet access” and signatories will be obliged to ensure that any restrictions are clearly communicated to consumers.

3. Not [to] target and degrade the content or applications of specific providers.

It’s worth pointing out that since 2012, at least in terms of fixed line broadband providers, most of the big ISP based Traffic Management policies (these are used to balance the performance of a network, often by slowing some services down and thus preventing a minority of heavy users from harming the experience for everybody else) have been somewhat pushed aside in favour of “truly unlimited downloads” or similar promises. But you can of course still find plenty of capped or Fair Usage Policy / Traffic Management restricted packages around the market, especially among smaller ISPs.

Matthew Evans, CEO of the BSG, said:

Unlike some countries where net neutrality has become a controversial topic for discussion, the UK benefits from a fiercely competitive market and high levels of transparency – which together offer the best assurance of an Open Internet. The Code now provides an even stronger and more effective foundation, whilst also allowing for an environment where new business models for internet-based services which benefit consumer choice can thrive.”

Jo Connell, Chair of the Communications Consumer Panel, added:

The Code usefully supports open access to the internet and builds on previous commitments by ISPs to provide transparent information to consumers about their traffic management policies. We are delighted that EE, Virgin and Vodafone have now agreed to become signatories. The Code has gained significant interest internationally as a positive example of industry responding to a developing consumer need.”

As of today the signatories of the code are: BT, Sky Broadband, EE, KCOM (KC), giffgaff, O2, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three UK, Virgin Media and Vodafone. Under the code Internet content providers are able to raise potential cases of targeted and negative discrimination with ISPs and, if they are not satisfactorily resolved, these issues will be lodged with the BSG who will share them with Ofcom and the government.

But so far the code hasn’t really been tested by any significant complaints (that we know of) and the market has done a reasonable job of self-regulation. But there is always room for improvement and some people continue to find the way in which operators communicate their limits to be confusing and vague, especially when it comes to restrictions placed upon Mobile Broadband connectivity.

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    Meanwhile, in Holland..

    “the Netherlands is ranked with Switzerland in having the most broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants,[1] has no bandwidth caps,[2] and has the most homes passed in Europe in terms of connection speeds of 50 Mbit/s and higher.[3]”

    “Government-mandated Internet censorship is nonexistent due to the house of representatives speaking out against filtering on multiple occasions, although there have been proposals to filter child pornography and the Netherlands, like many countries, is grappling with how to prevent or control copyright infringement on the Internet.”

  2. Avatar X66yh says:

    All the above quote extracts are copied directly from a wikipedia article on broadband in Holland….data as at 2010.

  3. Avatar DTMark says:

    Indeed they are. Much to do with more widespread availability of cable which is now at 200/20 in Amsterdam, can’t speak for the whole country though.

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      Yeah – cable is available to over 95% of the Netherlands.

      UPC offer 200/20 to 2.85 million premises, Ziggo 180/18 to a further 4.25 premises. This out of 7.3 million premises nationwide.

  4. Avatar No Clue says:

    Oh this should be interesting consider without even checking others…
    1) Plusnet have traffic priorities (thei platinum, gold, silver etc levels or whatever they now dub them)
    2) Virgin still throttle uploads if you go above a certain amount of uploaded data in a certain period (amount varies package to package).
    3) I imagine that many others mention have similar nonsense, although they try to be clever and bury it away in small print terms. They would not know what “NET NEUTRALITY” was if it bit them on the backside. BT and Talk Talk as examples i think “prioritise” their TV content…. Cant be bothered to go read through there million page redirects and tiny print.

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