UK's telecom watchdog Ofcom today laid down new guidelines for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ensure that customers are aware of how internet traffic is being managed on their networks and the speeds users can expect to achieve.
Although ISPs already provide some consumer information on their use of traffic management, Ofcom believes it currently does not go far enough and needs to be made clearer and easier to understand.
The regulator warned that if improvements are not made, it may use its powers to introduce a minimum level of consumer information under the revised European framework. This framework was implemented into UK law in May 2011 and it contains a new policy objective to promote Net Neutrality.
Ofcom said that traffic management is used by ISPs to deal with congestion by slowing down (throttling) or accelerating the flow of traffic over the internet. In general it is beneficial, and is used, for example, to protect safety-critical traffic such as calls to the emergency services.
But it can cause concern, if it is used by ISPs to target competing services, in a manner which is not visible to consumers.
In March 2011 the UK's largest ISPs, including BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, O2, Vodafone and others signed up to a voluntary Code of Practice which requires each one to produce a comparable table of traffic management information called a Key Facts Indicator (KFI).