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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Largest Internet Providers Refused to Accept Net Neutrality

It seems that a new voluntary code of conduct on net neutrality, which was expected to be unveiled soon, might be a waste of time, because top 3 ISPs aren’t signing up.
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Net neutrality code lays down a set of principles in support of the open web. The signers will have to promise to provide users access to all legitimate material and not to discriminate against content providers within a commercial rivalry. The voluntary code was drafted between Communications Minister Ed Vaizey and Internet service providers.

The code has been signed by BT, BSkyB, O2, TalkTalk and Three. However, Virgin Media, Vodafone and the two Everything Everywhere networks – T-Mobile and Orange – aren’t signing.

According to Virgin Media, it had refused to sign because it was too pro-neutrality and it found the agreement not tough enough. The ISP admitted it wasn’t going to sign as it stands, pointing out that it had no intention of discriminating or treating information differently on the basis of who owns or publishes it.

Virgin Media is looking for something clearer for industry and what can give consumers improved transparency. However, the agreement is worded in such a way that it’s open to misinterpretation and potential exploitation.

The industry experts admit that Virgin does have a point. Net neutrality assumes that Internet service providers and mobile networks wouldn’t use the term “Internet access” to describe any package that blocks some classes of material, apps or services. In other words, the ISPs are able to apply whatever restrictions they want if they don’t use this term. Moreover, the ISPs would be allowed to slow some types of traffic, like peer-to-peer services, in order to manage network congestion. In case they do so, they should inform their customers. However, Virgin is big on telling its subscribers exactly what it’s doing – in fact, the advertising watchdog once claimed that the small print in some of its ads was too small.

As for Everything Everywhere, it said that it was too early to understand how an agreement of this type would affect clients’ online experience. The ISP explained it did support the principle of the open web and believe that transparency really is the way to achieve this. It even signed up to the BSG’s code of practice on traffic management to make its policies clear to the subscribers.

Finally, Vodafone hasn’t explained why it refused to sign the code.

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