EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media back UK ‘net neutrality’


Agreement brokered by Broadband Stakeholder Group means that all major UK ISPs have now signed up to voluntary code governing traffic management over their networks

EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media have signed up to a voluntary code of practice governing ‘net neutrality’ in the UK.

The deal means that all major UK ISPs (fixed and mobile) are now signatories to the Open Internet Code which was launched in 2012 by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG), a government advisory group which works with UK ISPs on policy issues.

It means that data sent over their networks will not be discriminated against for commercial reasons. For example, Sky Broadband subscribers would not have their access restricted to content from its rival, BT Sport.

However, ISPs can still put in place reasonable policies on traffic management to deal with congestion on their network at peak times.

In the United States concerns have been raised by Netflix agreeing to pay Comcast and Verizon fees to ensure that they provide a minimum level of service to subscribers streaming content from its website.

Campaigners for ‘net neutrality’ believe that ISPs being able to charge for content means that start-up business, who cannot afford to pay, will find it difficult to get off the ground. The ISPs argue that businesses that are making money from their netoworks should some of the costs of delivering that service.

As part of the code, any content provider that believes that access to its services are being discriminated against can lodge a complaint with the BSG who will raise it with Ofcom and the government.

“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,” said BSG chief executive officer Matthew Evans.

“The Code now provides an even stronger and more effective foundation, whilst also allowing for an environment where new business models for internet-based services which benefit consumer choice can thrive.”

The latest signatories join BT, BSkyB, KCOM, giffgaff, O2, Plusnet, Tesco Mobile and Three and Three as signatories to the Code.