Ofcom ponders web TV regulation

Ofcom has vowed to tread carefully when it comes to determining how internet-based TV services should be regulated.

At the same time, the issue has prompted the watchdog to take a step back and review its approach to regulation in other areas.

The regulator's head of telecoms technology, Chinyelu Onwurah, used a panel debate on emerging internet issues this week as an opportunity to reassure the industry that the regulation of web-based TV is something it won't be tackling lightly.

"It shouldn't be a matter of the wholesale rolling over one set of regulation into another world," said Onwurah.

"My natural reaction is hold on because I don't want to see another huge wave of regulation unleashed. We are looking to avoid any knee jerk reaction which says the internet must stay the way it has always been or it says that broadcast television is the right model for regulating the internet."

Onwurah said that Ofcom's role is to protect consumers. But, in the case of TV on the net, to do so it must first understand the potential pitfalls and how to guard against them.

"If regulation is required on the internet in the interest of end users and consumers, that regulation will develop as part of the normal process," she added.

"It's a big and complex issue. [You can] enable the network to differentiate how much people pay if they want a download to take two minutes or two hours. But if it's effectively acting as a bottleneck and limiting customer choice so that they can't change providers, that is an issue that might attract regulatory interest."

The internet has thus far evolved using a somewhat self regulatory model and Ofcom plans to use the current debate as an opportunity for some self assessment.

"We need to concern ourselves with the potential harm for consumers by education as well as self or co regulatory measures," said Onwurah.

"[This] makes us reconsider our approach to regulation and the reasons for maintaining regulation in certain areas. So, as part of that we need to understand where regulation is necessary and where it may be less necessary. In Ofcom, we are certainly reviewing what we are looking to achieve by existing regulation."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.