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UPDATE BSG Publish Revised UK ISP Open Internet Code of Practice

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 (1:21 pm) - Score 554
united kingdom digital connectivity

As expected the Broadband Stakeholders Group, which acts as a think-tank for UK government policy, has today published a revised 2016 Open Internet Code of Practice for ISPs that works to protect Net Neutrality by bringing the self-regulatory approach into line with new EU regulation.

The new code, which is supported by most of the markets major broadband and mobile providers, effectively merges the BSG’s two previous Open Internet and Traffic Management Transparency codes into a single policy – 2016 Open Internet Code – and continues to be shaped by three principles.

The Core Principles

* Users should be able to access all lawful content.
* There should be no discrimination against content providers on the basis of commercial rivalry.
* Traffic management policies should be clear and transparent.

Broadly speaking the aim of this code is to ensure that consumers receive full provision of open internet access (e.g. no blocking of legal online services) and to prevent broadband ISPs and mobile network operators from abusing Traffic Management practices or similar methods to degrade the services of a competitor (e.g. mobile operators restricting VoIP services like Skype).

The code was recently reviewed by WIK (here), although not much has changed from the original approach, except perhaps for the fact that it is now being backed up by the European Union’s new Net Neutrality regulation as a legal backstop (here and here). In that sense the code now has a lot more weight behind it.

On top of that the new code also appears to address services other than Internet Access Services (IAS), such alternative services (e.g. Internet of Things) or managed services whereby an ISP offers “quality of service” that optimises the content for the service in question and may guarantee a certain level of performance (e.g. health care applications, in-car telematics).

Ed Vaizey, Digital Economy Minister, said:

“The original code of practice, which I called for in 2011, was essential in delivering an Open Internet for the UK. These revisions announced complement the recent EU Open Internet Regulation and will make sure it is applied consistently by the major UK Internet Service Providers.”

Matthew Evans, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, said:

“This Code ensures the continuation of the UK’s successful self-regulatory approach, which, in the context of a competitive market place, has delivered real benefits to UK consumers. The revised Code gives UK communication providers and consumers greater clarity and certainty about what the European Regulation means in practice.

The consistent and constructive engagement of both ISPs and content providers was critical to the success of the process. I look forward to continuing to work with them and with the Open Internet Forum to address any issues that arise in relation to the Code.”

On the other hand it should be stressed that the United Kingdom does not yet have a major problem with Net Neutrality, except for a few smaller incidents. As such most consumers probably won’t notice the impact as it merely ensures that the current approach to Internet provision is maintained, albeit without allowing ISPs to do naughty things to your Internet connectivity.

At present the revised code is supported by BT, Sky Broadband, EE, giffgaff, KCOM, O2, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three UK and Vodafone. Other providers, such as Virgin Media, are expected to sign-up in the not too distant future and ultimately the EU regulation will apply to everybody.

Speaking of which, the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) aims to set out its own set of related guidelines by 30th August 2016 and these will then be implemented by national regulators. Ofcom also supports the BSG’s approach.

UPDATE 2:15pm

We also asked the BSG to clarify how the new code might impact Sky Broadband’s default-on approach to the network-level filtering of adult Internet content and Three UK’s proposed network-level ad blocking system.

A BSG spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk: “The Code of Practice permits efforts to deploy age verification, child protection and parental controls. Whilst it does not specifically address ad-blocking, the Code re-commits signatories to utilising the Open Internet Forum, which the BSG supports, to discuss emerging opportunities and challenges to the Open Internet.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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