Top ISPs snub net neutrality code of conduct

A new voluntary code of conduct on net neutrality, due to be unveiled, might just be a waste of time as three of the biggest ISPs are not signing up.

The voluntary code lays down a set of principles in support of the open internet. Signers have to promise to give users access to all legal content and a promise not to discriminate against content providers on the basis of a commercial rivalry.

The code was drafted between Communications Minister Ed Vaizey and ISPs.

It has been signed by BT, BSkyB, O2, TalkTalk and Three but Virgin Media, Vodafone and the two Everything Everywhere networks, T-Mobile and Orange are not signing.

Virgin Media told PC Pro the company had refused to sign because it was too pro-neutrality and the agreement wasn’t tough enough. It said that it was not going to sign as it stands. Virgin had no intention of discriminating or treating data differently on the basis of who owns or publishes it.

Virgin wanted something which was clearer for industry and give consumers improved transparency. But the agreement is worded so that it is open to misinterpretation and potential exploitation.

We have to admit that Virgin has a point. Under the agreement, ISPs and mobile networks would not to use the term “internet access” to describe any package where certain classes of content, applications or services are blocked.

They could apply whatever restrictions they choose, provided they don’t use the term. They would be allowed to slow certain types of traffic, such as P2P file-sharing services, to manage network congestion. But if they do, they agree to tell their customers

Of course Virgin is big on telling its customers exactly what it is doing, so much so the advertising watchdog, the ASA once told it that the small print in some of its adverts was too small

Everything Everywhere said it was too early to know how a code of this type will affect customers’ internet experience.

It said that it supported the principle of the open internet and believe transparency is the way to achieve this. It has signed up to the BSG’s code of practice on traffic management in order to make its policies clear to customers.”

Vodafone has not explained itself to anyone yet.