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Ofcom to review net neutrality laws following EE complaint

The regulator will review the existing framework, which had fallen under EU legislation prior to Brexit

Ofcom is planning to review the UK’s net neutrality laws following a complaint made by EE CEO Marc Allera on the negative impact of the current regulations.

Last week, the executive released a statement calling for changes to the existing net neutrality framework, saying that it “puts pressure on networks to sustain the rise and rise of the most popular content and gaming platforms”.

One such platform is Netflix, which Allera said is “consistently among the top services driving 60/70 per cent of traffic across [BT/EE’s] fixed and mobile networks”.

“The problem we face is, 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 said.

Following Allera's remarks, Ofcom has confirmed that it will launch a review into the UK’s net neutrality laws, which had fallen under EU legislation prior to Brexit.

An Ofcom spokesperson told the Telegraph: “Over the course of the next year we are planning to look at the existing framework for net neutrality to ensure we can continue to support innovation, while protecting consumers.

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BT is expected to provide its insights as part of the review, with a company spokesperson telling IT Pro that “conversations around this are in early stages”.

“What the pandemic has shown is that if there’s ambition to drive uptake of broadband ever higher, at affordable prices for UK households, then we have to consider how we ensure content distribution from some of the world’s largest companies can become more efficient and equitable, while also ensuring good quality of service for content providers,” they added.  

“What we are proposing, is that policy requirements evolve to allow us to better distinguish and manage traffic for those largest content providers who generate the highest traffic peaks, allowing for a host of new services that we can offer them, and ultimately their audiences.”

Net neutrality has been met with heated debate over the last few years, particularly in the US. In 2015, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favour of net neutrality and this decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals a year later. However, the law was overturned just two years later, under net neutrality opponent Donald Trump. 

In response, the state of California adopted their own law requiring net neutrality and the decision was opposed by the US Justice Department, which only withdrew its legal challenge to the California law last month, after president Joe Biden, a Democrat and proponent of the law, took office.  

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