Friday, 25 November 2011

ISPs must reveal throttling

UK TELECOMS WATCHDOG Ofcom has told internet service providers (ISPs) to be more open about throttling traffic on their networks.

At issue is traffic management, which Ofcom said is used to deal with congestion over the internet. It said that although it could be beneficial at times, for example when offering a preferred route for calls to the emergency services, it can also cause controversy.

Because of these controversies, which could see the ISPs offering less than preferred service on connections to web sites that they do not like, Ofcom has told ISPs they must be transparent about traffic management policies.

"It can cause concern, if for example it is used by ISPs to target competing services, in a manner which is not visible to consumers," says a statement released by Ofcom.

"Although ISPs already provide some consumer information on their use of traffic management, Ofcom believes it currently does not go far enough and needs to be made clearer and easier to understand."

The regulator warned that unless ISPs make changes independently it will be forced to make some itself.

Ofcom said that it expects ISPs to offer their users a basic level of information about their services and any external impact on them. It recommended that ISPs tell their customers what kind of speeds they are likely to get and let them know what impact any traffic management systems will have.

This should include information on what times of day traffic management might be used and the sort of impact that it might have on any applications that users choose to run.

"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," said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards.

"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."

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