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Ofcom Study Shows Net Neutrality Is Already Unavoidable

The announcement that Ofcom was going to look into Net Neutralilty and open a discussion on how the traffic management can be controlled and monitored, mirroring the way as these solutions monitor traffic for internet service providers.

The debate on net neutrality implicitly acknowledtges that all network operators use some sort of solution to control the flow of traffic over their network. What Ofcom wants to do is make the process more transparent.

Coincidentally, Ofcom's announcement comes a few days after O2 became the latest mobile internet providers to put a cap on its service, highlighting the fact that 3 per cent of its users consume 36 per cent of its bandwidth resources.

This, of course, is an extreme sort of net neutrality, aimed either at banning those who consume too much resources or get them to foot the bill.

While this is more easily done in the mobile broadband field, because of the limited number of competitors, traffic management is more complex in the fixed-line market and concensus more difficult.

Ofcom talks of the necessity to make sure that traffic management is not used for anti-competitive discrimation, something that could happen for example if Sky Broadband or Virgin Media decides to throttle BBC's iPlayer or Project Canvas.

Ultimately, Ofcom could encourage ISPs (by using legislation or a voluntary code of conduct) to be more open when it comes to their traffic management systems, either publishing their rules (like Virgin Media (opens in new tab)) or having a real-time solution like a customer dashboard.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.