The review of the established rules began in 2021, with a consultation being published last year
UK regulator Ofcom has made revisions to its net neutrality rules, which will further ensure that all traffic carried across UK networks is treated identically. The adaptations, Ofcom say, will “allow for clarity in our guidance to enable ISPs to innovate and manage their networks more efficiently, to improve consumer outcomes.”
The updated areas of policy will include:
- ISPs will be able to offer premium quality retail offers to better meet consumer needs. For example, cheaper packages for internet browsing and streaming customers, but more expensive packages for gamers needing lower latency.
- ISPs can develop specialised services, such as virtual reality (VR) and driverless vehicles
- ISPs can manage their networks with traffic management, to ensure the best user experience for customers. The guidance clarifies when and how this can be used by the ISPs.
- Zero-rating offers will be allowed (in most cases). This is when data from some apps or websites does not count towards the overall data allowance of the customer.
The official Ofcom definition of net neutrality is as follows:
“Net neutrality supports the ‘open internet’, ensuring that users of the internet (both consumers and those making and distributing content) are in control of what they see and do online – not the broadband or mobile providers (otherwise known as internet service providers or ISPs). The net neutrality rules make sure that the traffic carried across broadband and mobile networks is treated equally and particular content or services are not prioritised or slowed down in a way that favours some over others.”
“These changes are welcome and important and will help us to manage our network in the short term,” said Howard Watson, Chief Security and Networks Officer at BT in a statement.
“But they are the start of further reforms that are needed, so we can face into the future with confidence. Unless and until telecommunications companies have the necessary environment to negotiate on a level playing field with content providers, the challenges of meeting growing demand will remain reliant on telcos funding endless capacity upgrades.”
Over in the US, there has also been some recent net neutrality progressions. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to advance a proposal to reinstate net neutrality rules, after the final seat of the commission was filled by Democrat Anna Gomez.
These rules are heavily politically charged in the US, which were imposed by President Obama in November 2015, and were then rescinded by President Trump when he took office. Critics argue that charging different prices for different services disincentivises companies from innovation, while those in favour maintain that it will ensure equal access to the same internet, without ISP interference.
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