Ofcom to investigate ISPs’ traffic management

Ofcom is set to investigate the neutrality of British ISPs’ traffic management policies.

Ofcom to investigate ISPs' traffic management

The regulator will look into whether providers are discriminating against particular content, sites and types of internet-based communications in their policies, and whether ISPs are acting anti-competitively.

“The deployment of traffic management techniques and policies is now happening in scale here as well,” said Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, speaking at the Cable Congress 2010 in Brussels. “And last year’s adoption of the EU Framework moves us firmly into new territory.”

“The worry is that consumers won’t even get the opportunity to act, because they may not be aware that their traffic is being managed. Without such knowledge, they can’t exercise choice. The new framework package reinforces our duty to ensure that information on traffic management policies is made transparently available to consumers,” he added.

The worry is that consumers won’t even get the opportunity to act, because they may not be aware that their traffic is being managed. Without such knowledge, they can’t exercise choice

Every ISP has its own traffic management system, with some more limiting than others, and last year’s adoption of a new EU framework highlighted a need for “better consumer information” and a greater level of transparency from telecoms companies.

“The internet has developed successfully over the last decade with light-touch regulation and competition. It’s important that Ofcom’s consideration of the net neutrality debate bears this in mind,” said a spokesman for BT.

“I think you need to be careful not to confuse traffic management with the arguments around neutrality, which is essentially about regulatory intervention. We do, like a majority of ISPs, have a Fair Suage Policy and apply network management of specific applications but all of this is done transparently.”

He added: “Many of the concerns around net neutrality elsewhere are not relevant to the UK, because of the very competitive nature of the UK market and the strong rules on non-discrimination. To enable competition and innovation, all network owners should allow any content to be carried on fair and equal terms, including services provided to their own businesses.”

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