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Most UK ISPs commit to the open Internet – and all of Europe should follow

This week most major ISPs in the UK announced the launch of a “voluntary code of practice in support of the open Internet.” This action, consisting of ISPs voluntarily coming together to support and commit to the open Internet is a demonstration that, as we have explained, an open Internet is good for all. This will enable anyone to innovate and express themselves freely as long as they are connected to the Internet. It is my belief that openness is key to how all of us benefit from the Internet, whether it’s consumers keen to discover the latest Internet content or app, or telecom operators, fixed and mobile, who will benefit from this continued consumer demand for their Internet access services.

If I’d written it, I might have worded this Code a little differently, and I have shared our view on that in these pages before. But the point is this: the signatory ISPs provide their users with Internet access that enable them to use communications applications like Skype or types of applications like music or video streaming without restrictions. These ISPs also endorse that the open Internet will remain the norm.

I believe this is great progress. Beyond the leadership shown by the UK Minister and national regulator Ofcom, let’s congratulate the Broadband Stakeholders’ Group (BSG) who coordinated their work, and the signatories:

BE
BT
BSkyB
KCOM
giffgaff
O2
Plusnet
TalkTalk
Tesco Mobile
Three

This week’s action continues leadership shown by the UK government in this area. Last March the UK Minister of Communications Ed Vaizey encouraged ISPs to adopt good behaviour regarding the open Internet, following three guiding principles: end-user right to access the content of their choice, no discrimination ‘on the basis of commercial rivalry’, and informing end-users clearly about traffic management.

However, the launch of this Code is only the first step. We’ll continue to work constructively with these ISPs and others to continually improve it, and we look forward to Ofcom producing the annual ‘Open Internet report’ that the Minister suggested recently.

Looking further afield to Europe, there is now formal proof from a report of 400 ISPs by BEREC, the group of European telecom regulators, that there is widespread, arbitrary discrimination against what users can or cannot do with their Internet connections, which particularly affects VoIP and P2P.

This UK development is yet more proof that safeguarding the open Internet is not only an imperative in the 21st century, but it can be done in a way that works for all stakeholders. As European consumer groups wrote to the European Commissioner this month, it is high time to “enshrine the net neutrality principle” in the EU. The European Commission followed this week with a consultation on net neutrality, seeking views in particular on Internet traffic management, transparency and interconnection issues. (anyone interested can respond, including users…). The consultation will run until 15 October, feeding into a future Recommendation by the Commission.

To us, the way forward is clear: to establish once and for all at European level the same clear and unambiguous commitment to the open Internet that we have demanded for years and described at length in these pages. The time is now for Internet freedom for everyone.

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