Government Advistory Board To Review Open Internet Code Of Practice

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Government’s broadband advisory board will see whether industry self-regulation needs updating to comply with EU open Internet legislation

The government’s broadband advisory board is to review the UK telecoms industry’s open Internet commitment to see if it falls in line with proposed new European laws that safeguard net neutrality.

The Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG)’s current Open Internet and Traffic Management Code of Practice is signed by all major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile operators, covering 90 percent of all connections in the UK.

Communications regulator Ofcom has described the agreement as an “effective” self-regulatory model for the broadband industry, but the BSG will now see whether any changes need to be made to comply with new EU rules.

BSG review

Fibre Broadband © Datskevich Aleh Shutterstock 2012The laws, announced in June, will forbid ISPs from charging content providers additional fees for preferential treatment, allowing startups to create innovative applications on a level playing field with larger competitors.

However, ISPs will be able to manage traffic on their networks in a number of circumstances, such as blocking malware, viruses, DDoS attacks or to filter spam, or if the police or a court order requires the takedown of illegal content. ISPs can also manage traffic due to exceptional or temporary high demand, but not because of consistent low capacity or poor infrastructure.

The rules do however allow ISPs to provide “more innovative services” with certain levels of bandwidth so long as they do not affect the needs of other users.

The EU claims its net neutrality rules are the strongest in the world, because users will be able to terminate contracts if they are throttled or denied quality service. National regulators will be responsible for enforcing the regulations, with the power to dish out appropriate penalties for infringement.

European regulation

“The UK’s self-regulatory approach has meant that consumers have benefited from increased transparency, service providers have been given regulatory certainty and content providers have been protected from discriminating practices” said Matthew Evans, CEO of the BSG. “It is right that we review the Codes’ compliance under the new EU Regulation and make sure that they are fit for the future.”

“I welcome this decision by industry and the Broadband Stakeholder Group to review the Open Internet and transparency codes of practice,” added Ed Vaizey, minister for the digital economy. “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 so I am delighted with their success.”

The issue of net neutrality has been a controversial one, with ISPs and network manufacturers arguing such regulations will stifle innovation, while campaigners have argued for the principles of an open Internet to be enshrined in law. The US Federal Communications Commission recently introduced net neutrality guidelines earlier this year.

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