Feeds

Ofcom opens Neutrality debate with 'hands off' warning

We've got enough daft laws already, thanks

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Baseball. McCarthyism. Net neutrality. Not all US cultural exports succeed abroad, and the latter has landed with a dull thud in Europe. Ofcom today opened a consultation on net neutrality, but its preferred stance is likely to disappoint the Tin Foil Hat brigade of web activists who created and fomented the issue in the USA.

Ofcom stresses that not interfering can be the best form of regulation. And rather pointedly, it highlights anti-competition and consumer protection legislation that already exists in the UK. All of this doesn't mean ISPs and service providers are off the hook: they will have to do rather better at informing customers about traffic management than they do today.

That should be widely welcomed. UK broadband users are throttled, shaped and capped up the wazoo - and it's hard to tell just how and when these measures are being introduced. But so far, the debate has tipped into the hysterical, dogmatic extremes seen in the USA.

In setting out its position, the UK regulator will follow the framework set by Nellie Kroes, the former competition commissioner and now Digital Agenda Commissioner. In a speech last month Kroes said that competition was the consumer's best guardian against "bottlenecks and monopolistic gatekeepers", rather than technical regulation. She said the ISPs must be completely transparent in their traffic management practices. Ofcom agrees so vigorously heads may fall off.

"Ofcom’s initial view is that a prohibition on network operators/ISPs charging content and applications providers for access to consumers is unlikely to lead to efficient market outcomes. In simple terms, it means that consumers have to bear all of the costs in a ‘two sided market’ in which content and applications providers clearly benefit from access to consumers as well as vice versa," observes the regulator, while reserving the right to monitor the big industry players for signs of competitive bottlenecks, ie, where operators are acting as a cartel to drive up prices.

The reason? The content market is in its infancy, and it's simply too early at this stage to say.

"Ofcom does not consider that there is a need for controlling future prices by network operators/ISPs and in particular setting them at zero seems difficult to justify, even if Ofcom had the power to impose such a pricing regime," it points out.

Being able to guarantee quality of service as a paid offering (both to content providers such as YouTube or the BBC, or to punters wishing to sign up to a service) is quite a good thing, it notes. If you don't want it, then don't pay.

(In early 2007 Google's Head of TV Technology said the web was rubbish for TV - predicting that "It's not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect." )

Net Neutrality: Save Google. Save this lot.

US net neutrality campaigners (from 2006)

Ofcom sums up the position like this.

Our initial analysis indicates that there is currently no strong case for an outright ex ante prohibition on all such discrimination. Regulatory intervention which focused exclusively on traffic management (prohibiting certain forms of traffic management) could have the unintended consequence of encouraging the development of closed networks and devices which evade any such ban.

However, the concerns highlighted in this section arose we would examine such instances on a case-by-case basis applying our full range of ex post powers as appropriate. If in the future evidence of more persistent and recurrent behaviour that could lead to consumer detriment emerged we could consider whether it would be appropriate to use our ex ante powers.

Steady as she goes, then.

The discussion paper can be downloaded here, and consultations are open until 9 September.

Net Neutrality advocates should honour the campaign's tradition by writing in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS with double exclamation marks!! for emphasis. For hand-delivered submissions, go dressed as The Tron Guy. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.