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Ofcom launches review of UK's net neutrality rules post-Brexit

BT has said the time is right for the regulator to be reviewing the framework introduced in 2015

Ofcom has launched a review into the UK’s net neutrality laws, with a call for evidence open until 2 November 2021.

The regulator is planning to determine whether the UK’s net neutrality framework, passed in 2015 under the EU’s Open Internet Regulation, needs to be adjusted to the current environment, taking into account users’ and providers’ needs as well as Brexit.

The pandemic has made more consumers and businesses dependent on their broadband connections, causing a rise in internet users: by the end of 2020, around 94% of UK homes had internet access, an increase of 6% since 2019. Innovations such as the cloud and IoT devices have also become increasingly prevalent in the six years since the regulation was introduced, and the 5G rollout could further influence internet demands.

Moreover, due to lockdown boredom, many have shifted their attention to streaming movies or online video games.

The latter is what prompted BT’s Consumer Division CEO Marc Allera to call for changes to the existing net neutrality framework, saying that “allowing access for free to certain websites is incompatible with current net neutrality arrangements”.

“Zero-rating large sites – for us and any other network operator – drives huge data traffic and costs onto networks,” he added.

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On 14 March, a week after Allera's remarks, Ofcom confirmed it would launch a review into the UK’s net neutrality laws, with a call for evidence being opened on 7 September, inviting “responses from all stakeholders, including citizens and consumers and organisations that represent their interests, small and larger business consumers, CAPs and ISPs as well as from other stakeholders from across the internet value chain”.

The evidence will be used to create a report of initial findings, which is expected to be published in Spring 2022.

Commenting on the news, Allera told IT Pro that “it’s in everyone’s interests to maintain a fair and open internet but that requires rules to adapt to the way the internet has evolved”. 

“With the dependency on online services continuing to grow, we believe the time is right for Ofcom to be reviewing this important area, supporting the industry to enable a positive experience for all users in the years ahead,” he added.

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