Ofcom opens net neutrality debate

UK regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on net neutrality in the country, to address growing concerns ISPs will use traffic management techniques anti-competitively. 
The consultation, which runs to September 9, will decide how Ofcom uses its existing powers to prevent operators and ISPs deliberately downgrading the performance of some content to boost services from favored suppliers. 
Options being considered include requiring service providers to supply details of their traffic management practices, and using Ofcom’s current competition powers to ensure neutrality. 
European Union rules covering transparency that are due to become law in the UK in 2011, would give Ofcom the power to force ISPs to provide the information regarding traffic management. The regulator is also considering whether those details should be passed onto consumers. 
“At the heart of this discussion is how to ensure that traffic management practices are transparent and how to ensure that traffic management is not used for anti-competitive discrimination,” Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards said.  
Net neutrality has become a hot-topic during 2010, as regulators seek to ensure a level playing field for content providers amid increasing demand for high-bandwidth content. 
The European Commission is due to publish the results of a similar consultation in the summer, as part of its Digital Agenda plan, while regulators in France have already outlined net neutrality strategies.