Several internet service providers in the United Kingdom have pledged that they will provide their customers will open access to the Internet. Participants in the pledge will not restrict access to legal content and will not employ traffic controls that discriminate against content providers. Among those committing to the Open Internet Code of Practice were O2, BT, and BSkyB.
Those who have agreed to the pledge will not discriminate against any legal content or applications in providing internet access to customers. Of course, illegal content will continue to be blocked in observance of the law.
Concern has recently grown regarding ISPs that may prioritize one content source from others in return for monetary compensation. Under the agreement, ISPs cannot control traffic “in a manner that targets and degrades the content or application(s) of specific providers.” However, data restrictions in customer contracts and age-restricted site access may allow limiting of service. ISPs may also manage traffic to avoid congestion.
Some service packages may be offered that block certain types of legal content, although any restrictions to the content their customers can access will be clearly communicated so customers are aware of the service for which they are signing up. What’s more, providers have pledged not to use the wording, ‘internet access’ when describing these restrictive services.
“This voluntary agreement is great news for consumers,” said UK communications minister Ed Vaizey in a statement. “It marks a significant commitment from the leading ISPs to uphold the principles of an open internet and gives certainty to their customers.”
Virgin Media, Vodafone, and Everything Everywhere have not signed the pledge, however. In a BBC report, Virgin Media argued that “greater clarity” was needed before it would come aboard, while Vodafone was not happy with the restriction of the term ‘internet access’. Everything Everywhere has stated that it is not yet ready to sign the pledge until it was better known how the new agreement would affect customer experience.
Usenet users often tout its openness. Many users share discussions, files, and other information with other users around the world in the many different newsgroups. It will be interesting to see how the UK pledge will be received among the worldwide Usenet community, as well as what affect it will have on ISPs in other countries.