UK ISPs commit to Open Internet
January 19, 2015
By Colin Mann
The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) has confirmed that all of the UK’s leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have now signed up to a voluntary Code of Practice in support of the Open Internet.
The Open Internet Code was launched in 2012, building on previous work on the transparency of traffic management. EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone have recently signed up to the Open Internet Code, meaning that all major ISPs, operating across both fixed and mobile networks, are now signatories. In its most recent Infrastructure Report Ofcom described the ISPs’ commitment to the Code as an “effective self-regulatory model”, which fulfilled a “key part of Government policy on Net Neutrality”.
The code commits ISPs to the provision of full and open Internet access products and confirms that traffic management practices will not be used to target and degrade the services of a competitor.
Matthew Evans, CEO of the BSG which facilitated the code, said that 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,” he advised.
According to Jo Connell, Chair of the Communications Consumer Panel, 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,” she stated.
The signatories of the code are: BT, BSkyB, EE, KCOM, giffgaff, O2, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone. By agreeing to the code, they confirm that they will:
Ensure that full and open internet access products, with no blocked services, will be the norm within their portfolio of products.
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.
Not target and degrade the content or applications of specific providers.
Content providers are able to raise potential cases of targeted and negative discrimination with ISPs. If they are not satisfactorily resolved, these issues will be lodged with the BSG who will share them with Ofcom and government.
This initiative, which the BSG was asked to undertake on behalf of the Government, builds on the transparency code of practice published in 2011 which ensures that clear, understandable and comparable information on traffic management practices is available to consumers.