Ofcom has told Internet Service Providers how it expects them to make sure customers understand how internet traffic is being managed. The regulator believes existing consumer information about traffic management isn’t clear enough and warns that it may need to legislate if improvements aren’t made.
All ISPs manage their internet traffic in some way. The process is often used to deal with congestion, perhaps by slowing down some connections or by prioritising emergency services. However, traffic management can also be used to target competing services without consumers being aware.
According to Ofcom, fixed-line and mobile ISPs should provide the following information to customers at the point of sale:
- Average connection speed and the anticipated level of service,
- Information about the impact of any traffic management, such as reduced download speeds during peak times for peer-to-peer software, and
- Information on any specific services that are blocked.
It also notes that ISPs should not use the term ‘internet access’ to refer to a service that blocks some lawfully-available internet services.
Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, 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”.
[Ofcom statement on Net Neutrality]