Regulators and law don't protect UK net neutrality
ISPs can do as they want, as long as they tell you first
There is no legal barrier in the UK to internet service providers (ISPs) blocking content from website operators who do not pay them. Neither consumer law nor telecoms regulation protects ISP subscribers, technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio has revealed.
BT last week said that it wanted the operators of web video services to pay it for the cost of maintaining networks powerful enough to handle online video. It said that the BBC and Google should pay it because of the popularity of their iPlayer and YouTube services.
Other major ISPs are said also to be concerned at the infrastructure costs involved in ensuring that subscribers can watch video content, and the remarks raise the prospect of ISPs slowing or even blocking subscribers' access to content from operators which do not pay them.
OUT-LAW Radio investigated whether there was any legal barrier in the UK to an ISP slowing or blocking access to video services such as the iPlayer and found that there are none. As long as an ISP explains its actions in its fair use policies or statements of terms and conditions it is permitted to block whatever it likes.
A spokeswoman for telecoms regulator Ofcom said that ISPs all had to abide by its General Conditions, but that these did not specify that all internet traffic had to be treated equally.
She said that there is a voluntary Code of Practice governing the advertising of broadband speeds, but that this only demands that ISPs inform customers of any traffic shaping or blocking that it engages in.
She said that Ofcom had previously considered the issue of whether such blocking or shaping for reasons other than network management might be unfair to consumers, but had not come to any conclusion.
A lawyer at consumer protection body Which?'s legal division also said that consumers would only have grounds for complaint if a connection was interfered with without notification.
"The Supply of Goods and Services Act relates to their broadband contract so basically there is an obligation there to provide the service that was previously promised and as described," said Stephen McGlade of Which? Legal Services. "If there is any situation where the internet connection is reduced in some way, obviously one would have to look at the service contract, at the terms and conditions, to see what it says in relation to that service agreement."
"They could challenge it if they are deprived of being able to look at this legal content, they could request an alteration to the service and should be looking for some compensation," he said, referring only to situations where an ISP does not give notice of the change.
lies, damn lies and usage limits
I'm pretty pleased with my ISP, newnet, because they were very honest when they reduced monthly traffic allowances having effectively asked customers whether whey wanted to pay more per month or have allowances reduced because it wasn't possible to maintain the expected high quality of service (un-shaped, un-phormed, un-filtered, un-mangled) that the customers expected.
the result was that customers decided on a lower usage limit. service quality has remained high*. we all get usage graphs so we know what we're using, and if we do go over the top there's a reasonable additional charge per GB.
TBH, if I don't torrent too much and don't hit iplayer too often I don't come close to the 20GB limit - in fact, towards the end of the month I usually make an effort to use it up!
A friend was on the talktalk service and performance was very variable, usually poor, he changed ISP to same as me, choosing to actually pay for service, and it's transformed his experience - I can even VNC into his computer to fix problems, which was simply not possible before!
I'm not affiliated with the afformentioned ISP, I only mention them because they seem to be one of the few honest organisations who don't promise top level service at unsustainable prices.
* I get a genuine 8M line speed and I get very close to theoretical max when downloading any time of day or night; I also get consistent low latency, and can't remember any outages.
BT meets foot...
What BT said:
"We can’t give the content providers a completely free ride and continue to give customers the [service] they want at the price they expect,"
What BT meant to say:
"We are don't like they way we pay for our infer-structure and we want others to pay. Google and the BBC have lots of money, we will get money from their to prop up our terror-able service. Oooh s##t, we are looking at new connection speed swhere people will expect decent speeds. Oh so much for 21 century network, we will give then new terms and conditions stipulating that we can reduce their web speeds to sub dialup speeds depends upon site visited - that should fix it"
Seriously what are BT on?
The sites pay at their end and we pay for the data. If I downloaded 100gig that's fine under my "unlimited" connection but if it's youtube, it's not. From the individual customer point of view it's ridiculous, from the "they don't pay" point of view, it's a lie, and if they can't afford people using their package at 100% at peak hours, and close to, the rest of the time they shouldn't provide it. If they are relying on under use, they're effectively relying on customers making the wrong choice due to poor/lack of information, absolutely any economist worth his salt will tell you, poor information is something which should be alleviated for the good of economies on the whole. Anyway in a nutshell, BT, what a shower of sh