Three and Vodafone are being investigated over suspicions of unfair throttling
Net neutrality is a term we’ve heard a lot of over recent months after the FCC voted to repeal the rules that prevent US internet providers from blocking or throttling particular traffic on their networks.
While many of us probably take for granted that we’re unaffected by the landmark decision, telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced it’s investigating whether mobile networks Three and Vodafone have broken similar rules in the UK.
Specifically, the investigation will examine whether Three has slowed down particular types of traffic both in the UK and abroad, as well as whether its tariffs that prevent some customers from tethering their data allowance violate net neutrality rules.
The telecoms watchdog will also investigate whether Three’s practice of selling different data plans for specific devices is in accordance with regulations.
Three said it would “work closely” with Ofcom to understand its worries.
In relation to Vodafone, Ofcom plans to investigate whether the network’s ‘Passes’, which offer unlimited bandwidth for specific network activities – including streaming music and video – lead to unfair throttling of traffic across its network. Vodafone is also being investigated with respect to the transparency of exceptions to its ‘Passes’, where certain functions within apps are not included within an unlimited allowance.
Vodafone said that it was “very disappointed” about the decision to investigate its passes, and said that it doesn’t throttle speeds in the UK or abroad. It did, however, admit to optimising bandwidth for customers using video passes, so that they receive the best possible quality while not impacting on the experience of other customers.
Ofcom said the investigation follows “the assessment of evidence gathered” by one of its own programmes. More specifically, it aims to “assess whether any ISP traffic management practices raise specific concerns” in relation to the EU Open Internet Access Regulation 2015, which ensures that “internet traffic shall be treated without discrimination, blocking, throttling or prioritisation”.
While networks providers are allowed to use “reasonable measures” to manage traffic and ensure the network runs efficiently, they are required to be transparent about such policies, Ofcom explains. Under the above EU regulations, which came into effect on 30 April 2016, internet providers and mobile networks must “treat all internet traffic on their networks equally, and must not give preferential treatment to any particular sites or services.