ISPs expected to provide traffic management details

Ofcom to push for more details, more clearly laid out so consumers know where they stand
Kerry Butters

November 24, 2011
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Ofcom have announced today the measures ISPs are expected to take to ensure that customers are made aware of how their provider manages internet traffic.

The regulatory body believes that the information that ISPs currently provide to consumers is not enough and also needs to be easier to understand.

ISPs manage traffic in order to ensure that critical traffic is protected. However, there is some concern that telecoms companies may “target competing services”.

Ofcom have said that if more is not done to improve consumer information, then they may have to step in and use their powers to introduce “a minimum level of consumer information under the revised European Framework.”

“This framework was implemented into UK law in May 2011 and it contains a new policy objective to promote Net Neutrality,” the regulator said.

The UK’s biggest internet providers signed a voluntary code of practice in March this year and all of them are expected to provide a “comparable table of traffic management information called a Key Facts Indicator (KFI).”

However, the information provided on the KFI may not be clear enough for many consumers to fully understand how traffic is managed.

Therefore, Ofcom wants ISPs to provide a basic level of information to consumers when they initially sign up to a service provider.

This should include information on the average speeds that their customers can expect, traffic management information such as download speeds at peak times, what services may be blocked and clear descriptions of the terms used by ISPs.

“In particular, a consumer paying for ‘internet access’ should expect this to include the full range of services available over the open internet. ISPs should not use the term ‘internet access’ to refer to a service that blocks lawfully available internet services,” Ofcom state.

ISPs are to be encouraged by the regulatory body to further implement self-regulation to integrate the requirements set out.

Should service providers fail to carry this out, Ofcom will consider using its powers to ensure that they comply.

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said: “The internet plays an important role in the lives of citizens, consumers and industry. We now expect and depend on access to the content and services it has to offer.”

“How ISPs control access to the internet affects us all and it is important that we are able to understand how our access might be restricted. Ofcom is now looking to the ISPs to ensure that transparent information is available, and will consider intervening if it does not see improvements”.

At the moment, a large number of services are available and demand from consumers remains high. This, Ofcom say, has led to “an environment where new ideas and services can be freely launched, resulting in an exceptionally high degree of innovation and considerable benefits for citizens and consumers.”

It is this innovation that the regulatory body is seeking to protect, should it come under threat from competing companies who provide less traffic to stifle the competition, then Ofcom will step in to ensure that a minimum level of service is enforced.

Whilst it is thought that companies should be relied upon to do this through self regulation, Ofcom says that this should be reinforced with “consumer transparency.”

At the moment, BSkyB, BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone are all taking part in the voluntary self regulation.


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