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UK regulator scrutinises the way ISPs manage network traffic

The UK's telecoms regulator has opened a new "enforcement programme" to formally monitor the way in which internet service providers (ISPs) manage the flow of data over their networks.11 Dec 2017

Ofcom said the move is in line with its obligations under EU 'net neutrality' laws, known officially as the Open Internet Access Regulation (the Regulation).

EU net neutrality laws that came into force in April 2016 give internet users the right to "access and distribute information and content, use and provide applications and services, and use terminal equipment of their choice, irrespective of the end-user’s or provider’s location or the location, origin or destination of the information, content, application or service, via their internet access service". Internet service providers (ISPs) must "treat all traffic equally".

Notwithstanding those requirements, however, the regulations permit ISPs to implement "reasonable traffic management measures" which are "transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate", such as blocking or throttling the delivery of content requested by users of their network, for reasons such as preserving the integrity and security of the network or combatting network congestion. Where they deploy traffic management measures they must be open about it with customers.

Ofcom said: "Whilst we have been informally monitoring ISP traffic management practices since even before the Regulation became effective, the programme will focus on gathering further information to assess whether any ISP traffic management practices raise specific concerns under the EU Open Internet Access Regulation 2015. We may also consider any compliance concerns in relation to other practices covered by the Regulation under this programme."

"Should we identify specific issues, we may initiate separate investigations of named providers and take enforcement action against them if appropriate," it said.

Ofcom said it intends to provide an update of its work under the traffic management enforcement programme by June 2018.