Europe Urges Removal Of Network-Level Ad Blockers

The European regulator of electronic communications has issued new guidance that networks cannot offer ad blockers because it would violate net neutrality.

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) made the recommendation in its new guidelines on the implementation of net neutrality rules for national regualtors.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality legislation has been enshrined in European law since last year, which forces internet service providers (ISPs) to ensure all web traffic is teated equally.

And BEREC feels that national telecom regulators, such as Ofcom in the UK, should follow its recommendation over the controversy surrounding the use of ad blockers.

“Providers of internet access services shall not engage in traffic management measures going beyond those set out in the second subparagraph, and in particular shall not block, slow down, alter, restrict, interfere with, degrade or discriminate between specific content, applications or services, or specific categories,” said BEREC in its statement.

The government earlier this year suggested it could be prepared to help content creators and publishers in their battle against ad blockers.

Facebook for example warned last month that it plans to override ad blockers but has promised to give its users more control over what type of advertisements they see on the social network.

Mobile Operators

Ad blocking technology is also being explored by mobile operators. Last year EE CEO Olaf Swantee revealed the operator was investigating the possibility of blocking online adverts at a network level.

Mobile rival Three meanwhile has already trialled blockers for banners and pop-up adverts, but it insists that it is only looking to give customers more control and choice over what content they receive.

Indeed, TechweekEurope understands that Three has yet to officially launch any ad blocker product, and it is worth remembering that the BEREC guidance is only that, guidance. It is only a recommendation to national regulators such as Ofcom; it is not a ruling.

That said, there is little doubt that ad blockers are popular among consumers. Many people currently use ad blockers because they find ads intrusive. Others believe such adverts slow down system performance, use excessive amounts of data (important for those with data limits) and reduce battery life.

Some people cite using ad blockers for security, as a number of advertising networks have been used to launch malvertising attacks in recent times.

Ad blockers are used by 18 percent of UK web users, while it is estimated that the practice could cost publishers £14bn worldwide in 2015 alone.

Half of Brits said they would stop using ad blockers if online ads didn’t interfere with what they were doing on a web page, while 36 percent said they would disable such software if ads were more relevant.

However, it will likely require some careful work between online media outlets and advertisers to find a way that allows effective advertising campaigns to be delivered without intruding upon people’s online experiences.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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