Broadband traffic management commitment is not enough, says ORG

Tuesday, March 15th 2011
The body has argued the Broadband Stakeholders Group commitment will not resolve net neutrality issues.
Broadband traffic management commitment is not enough, says ORG
The newly-launched voluntary code of conduct covering online traffic management will do little to overcome concerns surrounding net neutrality, the Open Rights Group (ORG) has said.

Seven of the UK's biggest internet service providers (ISPs) - including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - have signed up to the commitment, which aims to make the way traffic is controlled simpler for consumers to understand.

Under the initiative, which has been facilitated by the Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG), subscribers will be given access to more easily comparable information about the practices used by different ISPs.

It will be published online by the end of June 2011 and will be piloted throughout this year, before being fully implemented in 2012 following a full review designed to resolve any issues.

Chief executive of the BSG Antony Walker backed the scheme and said it will help prospective customers to make "informed choices" about the services they sign up for.

But the ORG, an advocate of free expression, innovation and consumer rights on the web, has argued the commitment is unlikely to have the intended result.

Open access campaigner Jim Killock claimed the code of conduct is based on subscribers voting with their feet if they believe the service they receive is not good enough. In this way, greater transparency is meant to mark the end for anti-competitive ISPs.

However, the bundling of broadband, digital TV and home phone contracts in a bid to reduce customer switching is likely to hamper this approach, Mr Killock insisted.

He explained: "ISPs are doing everything they can to remove the supposed protection we will get from transparency.

"This is not to say that every ISP has evil intent, but they are already doing bad things, which are today reducing innovation and choice."

The expert went on to cite the example of peer-to-peer traffic, which is blocked and throttled by many broadband firms. Not only does this discriminate against small and medium-sized content providers - such as filmmakers, software companies and independent artists - but it could also hamper future innovation, Mr Killock said.

"Every time that an ISP impedes the flow of information, we risk economic damage," he added.

"The solution is not to push towards walled gardens and paid content delivery, but to invest in the networks themselves." 

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