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ISPs agree voluntary code of practice on traffic management
Monday 14 March 2011 01:09:58 by John Hunt

Some of the UK's major ISPs have agreed on a voluntary code of practice (COP) for transparency on traffic management on broadband services. The code has been put together by the Broadband Stakeholder Group in collaboration with BT, O2, Sky, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone to try and clarify for end users what traffic management is in place, and the affects this will have on a users broadband connection.

Traffic management has previously been hidden within cloudy phrases, with some providers not owning up to the practice being in use, or not explaining how their system actually works. The code being introduced tries to standardise how information is made available to users with ISPs enrolled expected to publicise this by June 2011.

The code will require providers to provide some specific information to consumers:

  • a description of traffic management practices
  • how traffic management may affect the internet experienced for different types of traffic
  • any changes made to traffic management policies which could have a significant affect on a broadband product
  • details of usage caps or upload/download limits

ISPs shall also have good practice principles on transparency that will be:

Understandable - ISPs will use non-technical language that consumers can understand to describe traffic management.

Appropriate - ISPs will ensure that the details included are adequate to meet the needs of different consumers. This would allow basic headline information to be displayed as well as more detailed info for consumers.

Accessible - ISPs will make the information easy to find and access.

Current - Any changes with a significant impact will be notified to customers as quickly as possible. ISPs will endeavour to offer real-time information where appropriate and practicable.

Comparable - Information will be made available in a consistent, comparable way with a key indicator table to summarise that traffic management details used on the broadband products marketed.

Verifiable - ISPs will support an independent assessment of their policies to give consumers assurance that information provided is robust.

Whilst following these guidelines, ISPs will be able to continue to market products in their own way and use their own language to describe things, but they must ensure that a link to a Key Facts Indicator (KFI) table is included which summaries the traffic management practices for each broadband product. We hope this table is displayed in a clear and succinct way as this will be key to ensuring that it is successful. The proposal does mirror some ideas we had previously to help make this kind of information easily available and it is good to see that the industry is helping progress things in this important area.

Obviously getting more providers on board will be important, but with the large players showing support, others should be quick to follow.


Posted by timmay over 6 years ago
Sky is in that list so does that mean the end of Sky's Unlimited broadband is coming?
Posted by baby_frogmella over 6 years ago
And long may ISPs continue to throttle traffic! One of the reasons i joined TalkTalk LLU was simply because they throttle p2p traffic to death meaning all other traffic protocols run at full speed 24/7 :)
Posted by RAConnell over 6 years ago
BE (O2) provide me with a 3x faster service than did BT, BT's low speed being due to higher contention ratio and associated traffic management.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
@timmay: not necessarily. They will just provide details of how they traffic shape etc on it. This could of course lead to some providers dropping unlimited packages, but this isn't a means-to-an-end of them.
Posted by drteeth over 6 years ago
@ baby_frogmella

Let's not get into the legitimate uses for p2p, but a protocol that you use/like may be next. It is salami tactics...slice by slice. It is cheaper to manage than to invest.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

Freedom of information is always ethically right, even if the state doesn't see it that way.
Posted by Drefsab over 6 years ago
Traffic shaping used to be used against p2p because p2p consumed the vast majority of bandwidth. The problem is that it only takes another protocol to consume a majority for some isp's to be unhappy with it and hence try to shape it. Just look at how providers are trying to get content providers to pay to carry their content (youtube, facebook, iplayer) if they dont they could shape it.
Posted by adslmax over 6 years ago
The isp's will be shaped on youtubes, iplayers, lovefilms, and so on, will be a total waste of time if we pay so much money on our broadband cost. Another UK ripped off.
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

There currently is no incentive for content providers to pay as it is a level playing field bandwidth-wise.

If a provider can't provide bandwidth for the current system, people will leave and it will fail.
Posted by uniquename over 6 years ago
I wonder what the non-technical terms for "bit" and "byte" are? Also, once they know that, perhaps they will use them to explain the difference between them to the people responsible for the utter fiasco a few months ago when the O2 traffic management details on the web site were changing back and forth day by day as nobody at O2 seemed to know.

There were conversations with O2 reps on the forum here and the in-house one where it was clear senior management hadn't a clue about it.
Posted by chrysalis over 6 years ago
not much will change then. its voluntary and its only about how its explained rather than how its implemented.
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