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Broadband Stakeholder Group to review UK net neutrality policy

The Broadband Stakeholder Group commissions an independent review into the UK’s industry-led approach to net neutrality and the open internet

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) is to launch an independent review into the UK’s approach to net neutrality and the open internet. The review will assess how effective the current industry-led model is, what its future under the European Union’s (EU’s) Connected Continent Regulations might be and how it can be improved to benefit consumers and service providers.

Having taken the lead in the creation of the UK’s Open Internet and Traffic Management Transparency Codes of Practice, the BSG has commissioned German state-owned consultancy Wissenschaftliches Institut für Infrastruktur und Kommunikationsdienste (WIK) – the Scientific Institute for Infrastructure and Communications Services – to undertake a study of the code.

The majority of the UK’s internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile operators are signed up to the codes of practice, described by Ofcom as an “effective self-regulatory model” that helped meet government policy around net neutrality.

The Open Internet Code consists of three core commitments: to commit signatory ISPs to the provision of full and open internet access products; to commit against negative discrimination, such as targeting and degrading specific content; and to commit to transparency requirements for any restricted products that are launched.

The Traffic Management Code of Practice has three main tenets: to provide more information to consumers about what traffic management takes place, for what purpose and with what impact; to comply with a set of good practice principles on providing information to consumers that is understandable, appropriate, accessible, current, comparable and verifiable; and to publish a common key facts indicator (KFI) table, summarising the traffic management practices used for each broadband product currently marketed.

However, with the EU’s Connected Continent Regulation – which heralds the formation of a single market for telecoms in Europe – due to be signed off later in 2015, the BSG wants to reassess the UK’s approach as a form of good practice and to see whether policy changes are needed.

WIK, which has a long history in the field of net neutrality, previously conducted research on behalf of Ofcom, Parliament and the European Commission. Its most recent study on the matter highlighted that British consumers valued the open internet and would not hesitate to switch providers if their internet usage was capped.

Read more about net neutrality

BSG CEO Matthew Evans said: “The UK’s self-regulatory approach has meant consumers have benefited from increased transparency, service providers have been given regulatory certainty and content providers have been protected from discriminating practices.

“It is right that we review the codes’ compliance under the new EU regulation and make sure they are fit for the future.”

Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey welcomed the review. “Both codes have been essential in making sure we have an open internet for consumers in the UK. The government encouraged the industry to develop a self-regulatory solution and I am delighted with their success,” he said.

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Providers capping usage (and speed) is one of the big issues here as well. Comcast is one of the big proponents of those, using them to generate additional revenue either by charging for overages on allowed data or selling “upgrade” packages for improved speed. Unfortunately, where I live they are the only provider for high-speed internet, so we’re kind of stuck.
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