Tag: open internet

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.

UK tech heavyweights send Ed Vaizey open letter on open internet

Tech heavyweights and supporters of the British open internet have signed a joint letter addressed to Ed Vaizey, MP, following his u-turn on net neutrality. Rather than slice up policy for big business to decide, he has pledged that the UK will preserve and support access to the open internet.

The letter calls on the Minister for Culture to put in place five key rules to safeguard the government’s commitment to open internet. These are:

1. The Internet should remain open so that everyone is able to send and receive the content, use the services and run the applications of their choice, on the device of their choice, within the law.

2. Traffic management should be kept to a minimum, and deployed for purely technical, security or legal reasons. There should be no discrimination in the treatment of Internet traffic, based on device, or the origin and/or destination of the content, service or application.

3. Meaningful information about any traffic management practices must be made available to all stakeholders, end users and businesses who rely on broadband infrastructure to reach their customers.

4. Future investment in network capacity and underlying infrastructure must take place in a way that is consistent with the end-to-end principle and where new models of Internet access do not compromise openness.

5. For competitive markets to function effectively, the regulatory framework must be fit for purpose and able to respond to abuses by network providers.

The letter is signed by Coadec, Ariadne Capital, Consumer Focus, eBay, Eden Ventures, Imrg, the National Union of Journalists, the Open Rights Group, Oxford University, Reevoo, Skype, TechHub, Truphone, The Filter, we7, Which? and Yahoo Europe.

It calls on the UK government to pen in more details to ensure no further u-turns. With big business seeking to press monopolies, naming no names, TechEye believes Vaizey and Co. should take heed. As has been underlined by MPs themselves, Britain’s online economy is worth a staggering £100 billion. Keen to encourage growth, MPs along with UK Trade and Investment have put plans in place for the East London Tech City, a proposed creative and economic centre for digital evolution and technology in the United Kingdom.

But with the Tech City receiving investment and advisory from reknowned alleged monopolisers such as Intel and Google, as well as alleged tax evasion telco Vodafone, how far can we trust any commitments? The question remains, are contract winners to the UK government – Vodafone and Virgin both maintain contracts in the public sector – favoured behind closed doors? And can we trust what our politicians say? The British culture of political mistrust exists for a reason. The fact is, it’s fair to say most trust the official line as far as they can throw Eric Pickles. 

That’s why the letter calls for further detail: the UK government must protect open internet through “judicious implementation of the new EU legislation for electronic communications.” It also advises Ofcom, the regulatory body, to “closely monitor the market and demonstrate that effective and timely enforcement processes are in place to respond to complaints about unfair discrimination from any affected stakeholder”.

The Coalition must keep a close eye on Britain’s ISPs, which are advised to develop “meaningful self-regulation to ensure fair principals on traffic management”. Ofcom’s upcoming switch review should deliver “real benefits to broaadband subscribers in terms of their ability to change providers, and drive meaningful choice between broadband packages.”

And lastly, arguably most importantly, the open letter looks toward healthy competitiveness. It says the government must: “Conduct a wide-ranging policy debate about this crucial subject for the future competitiveness of the UK’s economy and well-being of UK society, and adopting a joined-up approach in policy making, by assessing long-term implications of traffic management practices and the maintenance of an open Internet for the economy, for consumers and citizen’s interests, including freedom of expression, access to public services and digital inclusion.”

The letter is also adressed to the permanently surprised Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt and Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. 

In November, Ed Vaizey openly backed a “two speed” internet which would  allow ISPs to experiment with traffic management, effectively spitting in the face of net neutrality.  

Since, it appears, he has come to his senses.

But even with pressure from this open letter and others, it remains to be seen if we’ll keep our open internet – and if businesses with the most dosh are favoured through the backdoor rather than the front of No. 10.