Ofcom is in the process of seeking public input on revised guidelines that outline how net neutrality should be applied in the United Kingdom. As the regulatory body responsible for monitoring compliance with net neutrality rules, Ofcom aims to offer guidance to broadband and mobile providers to ensure they follow the established regulations. It’s important to note that the rules themselves are defined in legislation, and any amendments would require the involvement of the UK government and parliament.
Net neutrality is rooted in the principle that individuals utilizing the internet should have the authority to dictate their online activities instead of being subject to restrictions imposed by their service providers. Ofcom highlights the crucial role net neutrality has played in granting users access to desired content and services, while enabling content and app owners to connect with their online audience.
Considering the various developments that have occurred since the implementation of the current regulations in 2016, such as increased demand for capacity, the emergence of prominent content providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and advancements in technology like 5G, Ofcom has undertaken a review.
The objective is to ensure that net neutrality fosters innovation, investment, and growth for both content providers and broadband/mobile companies. Striking the right balance in this regard can enhance consumer experiences online, allowing for the introduction of innovative services and expanded choice options.
While preserving net neutrality remains crucial to safeguard consumer choice, Ofcom is proposing clearer guidelines to assist broadband and mobile providers in the following areas:
- Offering premium quality retail broadband or mobile packages, such as those with minimal latency to expedite data transfer and response times.
- Developing new “specialized services” that may encompass support for applications like virtual reality and driverless cars.
- Implementing traffic management measures to alleviate network congestion during peak usage periods.
- Introducing “zero-rating” packages under various circumstances, wherein users aren’t charged for accessing certain services—for example, online public health advice provided by the NHS.
Ofcom also puts forward guidance pertaining to broadband providers prioritizing and zero-rating access to emergency services, implementing parental controls, and managing internet traffic on airplanes and trains.
Furthermore, Ofcom presents its stance on whether broadband providers should be allowed to charge content providers for carrying traffic. Currently, there is insufficient evidence to support the notion of implementing such charges, but the ultimate decision lies with the UK government and parliament.