Three of the largest communications providers have not signed up to a new code of practice to support the Open Internet. The new voluntary code, set forth by the Broadband Stakeholder Group has had ten signatories including the largest broadband providers in the UK, but Virgin Media, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere have opted not to sign.
The principles of the code build on an earlier traffic management agreement which the three shunners did sign up to. The three new commitments that were added are:
These principles should help ensure that the country maintains net-neutrality, and avoids any negative discrimination against another companies traffic or services. It also posts some restrictions - providers cannot use the term "Internet Access" to describe their products where some classes of legal content or applications are blocked or unavailable. This is expanded to state that products must support full internet access giving a consumer access to any content, applications or services that are available on the Internet. This was the reason that Vodafone opted out of the code stating that it was "impractical".
"These plans offer internet access to smartphone and dongle users, but under the code we would have been unable to use the phrase 'internet access' to describe many of the services enjoyed by customers."Vodafone Spokesman
Mobile networks have traditionally taken a harsh stance on Voice over IP (VoIP) services such as Skype which allow free calls between users and can easily erode a providers revenue. Blocking these services on mobile networks is common across Europe and Vodafone's policy is to charge extra (£15 per month) to give access to VoIP services. This would clearly be against the Open Internet policies defined in this code and would be one thing that is stopping them from signing up. Virgin Media instead thought that the policy was too vague and could lead to misinterpretation and it would seek greater clarity before it would consider signing.
"This voluntary agreement is great news for consumers. It marks a significant commitment from the leading ISPs to uphold the principles of an open internet and gives certainty to their customers. The internet has been built on openness and low barriers to entry, and this agreement will ensure that continues. By committing to transparency, these ISPs are empowering their customers to make informed decisions about the services they want."Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries
The ten signatories are: BE, BT, BSkyB, KCOM, giffgaff, O2, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three. Click to see the full Open Internet Code of Practice.