Regulatory Outlook

Telecoms | UK Regulatory Outlook November 2023

Published on 29th Nov 2023

Ofcom net neutrality guidance changes

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Ofcom net neutrality guidance changes

The UK regulator, Ofcom, has revised its guidance in respect of how net neutrality rules should apply in the UK.

Net neutrality rules support the "open internet", which helps to ensure that internet users can control what they see and do online, rather than the broadband or mobile providers. Ofcom started its review of net neutrality in 2021. The review found that, in general, the current net neutrality rules did support consumer choice and generally worked well. However there were some areas where Ofcom felt it could provide more clarity to allow internet service providers to manage their networks in a more efficient manner.

In its guidance, Ofcom has provided clarity for broadband and mobile providers to:

  • Offer premium quality retail offers: Allowing internet service providers to provide premium quality retail packages means they can better meet some consumers’ needs. For example, people who use high quality virtual reality applications may want to buy a premium quality service, while users who mainly stream and browse the internet can buy a cheaper package. The updated guidance clarifies that internet service providers (ISPs) can offer premium packages which offer low latency (for example), provided it is made sufficiently clear to customers what they can expect from the services they buy.
  • Develop new ‘specialised services’: New 5G and full fibre networks will allow internet service providers to innovate and develop their services. The guidance clarifies when they can provide "specialised services" to deliver specific content and applications that need to be optimised. This may include real time communications, virtual reality and driverless cars.=
  • Use traffic management measures to manage their networks: Traffic management can be used by internet service providers on their networks, so that a good quality of service is maintained for consumers. The updated guidance clarifies when and how internet service providers can use traffic management, including the approaches they can take.
  • Offer zero-rating offers in most circumstances: Zero-rating is where the data used by certain websites or apps is not counted towards a customer’s overall data allowance. The updated guidance clarifies that these offers will generally be allowed: for example where the site is socially beneficial, provided by a public sector organisation and there is no competing supplier that offers a comparable alternative. The guidance also clarifies the limited circumstances where Ofcom may have concerns.

Ofcom maintains that internet service providers must be transparent with their offers to allow consumers to make informed choices.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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