‘Net neutrality’, sometimes referred to as the ‘open internet’, is the principle that users of the internet (both consumers and those making and distributing content) should be in control of what they see and do online – not the broadband or mobile providers that connect people and businesses to the internet (otherwise known as internet service providers or ISPs). The net neutrality rules make sure that the traffic carried across broadband and mobile networks is treated equally and particular content or services are not prioritised or slowed down so that some are favoured over others.
The current UK net neutrality rules are set out in legislation that was carried over from the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). Any changes to the rules in future would be a matter for Government and Parliament. Ofcom is responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the rules and providing guidance on how ISPs should follow them.
To that effect, OFCOM launched a process last year, by which it would review the net neutrality framework.
On 21 October 2022, it launched a consultation as part of that Net Neutrality Review. The Consultation process asked that the responses be supplied on a Form that was supplied by OFCOM. Whilst this had the advantage of allowing for a focus of responses to be given directly to the questions OFCOM asked, it did have the potential to impede on the breadth of the process, should Net Neutrality be actually broader than the focused OFCOM framework.
The UK Chapter of the Internet Society asked its members to contribute to a response. In parallel, the Internet Society headquarters also addressed the consultation by proposing responses to some of the questions, based on its extensive experience it had gained in the dialogue initiated in the US.
In past years, the UK Chapter of the Internet Society has already responded to many consultations mostly by DCMS, the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sports. Its representatives take part in many DCMS groups such as the ones focused on ICANN and one on Internet Governance (such as IGF and ITU). Collaboration with OFCOM has also been extensive as some of the above meetings were hosted by OFCOM. As a result it was asked to contribute to the above consultation. Contributions focused on topics such as but not limited to Cyber-security of IoT devices, Regulation, Investigatory Powers, Encryption, Online Safety Bill, etc.
The UK Chapter has also produced joint efforts with other chapter and with the Internet Society headquarters. On this occasion, the Chapter’s ethos aligns with the Internet Society’s principles and a joint response was drafted.
It is reproduced in its entirety here:
The response was submitted to OFCOM on 12 January 2023. To-date, OFCOM has neither published responses nor produced and follow-up, but it is hoped that the points we have made in our Chapter’s contribution will make a difference.