In the US, the issue of net neutrally has become a major and increasingly bitter spat between cable companies who want to destroy it, the FCC whose job it is to protect it but who is headed by an ex-industry spokesman and has been mainly leaning towards supporting cable companies, the government who until a recent surprising pro-neutrality push by President Obama has been keeping very quiet about whole the issue, Republicans who have just had a sudden change of heart and now support it, and consumers whose interests will be deeply damaged if net neutrality is allowed to die.
Fortunately for British internet users, UK ISPs have never attempted to undermine net neutrality (the principle that all net traffic should be treated equally) and introduce a multi-tiered internet where some traffic is prioritized over others.
Back in 2012 BT, BSkyB, KCOM, giffgaff, O2, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, and Three signed up to the government-led Broadband Stakeholder Group‘s (BSG) voluntary Open Internet Code. At the time, communications Minister Ed Vaizey described the move,
‘This voluntary agreement is great news for consumers. It marks a significant commitment from leading ISPs to uphold the principles of an open internet and gives certainty to their customers. The internet has been built on openness and low barriers to entry, and this agreement will ensure that continues. By committing to transparency, these ISPs are empowering their customers to make informed decisions about the services they want.’
Although somewhat late to the party, the UK’s last major ISPs (EE, Virgin Media, and Vodaphone) have now also signed up to the agreement. Matthew Evans, CEO of the BSG said,
‘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 BSG Open Internet Code has three requirements:
- ISP’s must ‘ensure that full and open internet access products, with no blocked services, will be the norm within their portfolio of products’
- ISPs must provide transparency where websites are blocked
- ISPs must ‘ot target and degrade the content or applications of specific providers.’
Jo Connell, Chair of the independent watchdog Communications Consumer Panel, welcomed the new signatories,
‘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.’