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Broadband minister asks ISPs to better 'regulate' industry

UK.gov enlists Sir Tim Berners-Lee to make noises about 'open web'

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Communications minister Ed Vaizey is calling on ISPs to beef up their commitments to providing UK customers with information about how they manage online traffic.

At a meeting attended by broadband firms BT, TalkTalk, BSkyB and Virgin Media yesterday, the minister approved of the industry's efforts to agree to "greater transparency for their traffic management policies," according to the Financial Times.

Google, Skype, Yahoo and Facebook representatives were also at the meeting, alongside officials from communications watchdog Ofcom.

The ISPs have agreed to acknowledge the Broadband Stakeholder Group's best practice code, which was announced earlier this week. UK.gov has been calling on the industry to self-regulate the system.

"The challenge ahead is to build a common view on how we safeguard the benefits of the open internet whilst also ensuring ongoing investment and innovation," said BSG boss Antony Walker.

"It is important that this is based on the realities of what is happening in the UK market, rather than what is happening elsewhere in the world."

In the US, the government's communications regulator has sought to mandate so-called "net neutrality". The only trouble there is that the Federal Communications Commission's first official rules on net neut have pleased no one.

Vaizey, whose opinions on net neutrality have wavered in the past few months, said yesterday that Sir Tim Berners-Lee had been asked by ministers to work alongside ISPs on guidelines to help broadband companies expand their commitment "to cover managing and maintaining the open internet".

ISPs have been mulling a two-tier system where connections to the internet are slower for some customers depending on how they use their broadband service.

"The potential for something going terribly wrong is absolutely there," argued Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group.

"The regulator and government do not wish to intervene, for good reason, but industry is not putting forward anything that looks like meaningful self-regulation." ®

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