UK broadband providers warned over speed, bandwidth throttling transparency

Summary:UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has called for greater transparency by broadband providers and suppliers, and warns that it could force companies to make such changes.

British telecommunications regulator Ofcom has warned UK broadband suppliers that the speeds they project in their marketing material should not only be accurate, but also reflect the speeds users should expect during peak times as well.

This is part of a greater transparency model that Ofcom is pushing on Internet service providers, and warns that these measures could become mandatory if suppliers do not comply.

Major broadband providers, including the largest broadband provider BT, along with TalkTalk and Virgin Media, all restrict the speeds that bandwidth-heavy services -- like peer-to-peer file sharers -- can achieve to maintain overall quality of service for other users.

Though some broadband providers have previously published data on how they manage their networks' traffic, Ofcom wants a clearer message to go out to consumers, so that end-users do not feel misled into the speeds they can achieve.

As part of the proposed changes, the language and terms used by broadband providers and suppliers should be clear and not be misleading. For example, Internet service providers should not describe their service as "Internet access" if law-abiding blocks are put in place on the network.

The regulator said that broadband providers and suppliers must tell consumers at the point of sale whether certain services will be blocked, the impact of traffic management -- such as the imposed slow-down of speeds during peak times, and the likely speeds that will be achieved during periods of high bandwidth.

"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", Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards said.

"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".

Sky Broadband, which does not manage traffic on its network, welcomed the regulator's move and called for greater openness on broadband providers' traffic management policies.

Related:

Topics: Broadband, Networking, Telcos

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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