A coalition of EU and US consumer organisations collectively known as the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialog (TACD) has called on governments on both sides of the pond to implement and enforce the practice of net-neutrality.
"Net neutrality is a state in which users have the freedom to access the content, services, applications, and devices of their choice," said the TACD in a declaration [PDF link].
ISPs prevent VoIP
Citing a number of examples in Canada and the US where ISPs had prevented customers from using VoIP services from competing companies over their networks, the TACD called for regulation to prevent ISPs from infringing their customers’ quality of service with anti-competitive practices.
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The TACD also called for regulations to ensure ISPs are not allowed to control users' access to sites they might deem to be harmful to their own interests, citing examples of employees blocking employers from accessing trade union sites.
A neutral internet
Explaining its vision, the TACD defined a ‘neutral internet’ as one in which consumers have three basic rights. These are: to "attach devices of their choice", to provide or access "private content, services, and applications of their choice", and the ability to use these rights without "discrimination according to source, destination, content, or type of application".
In other words, the TACD wants to ensure that ISPs cannot block, degrade, prioritise, or discriminate against certain kinds of data, services, applications or devices.
"National regulators should ensure that ISPs comply with the above mentioned principles by regularly reviewing the practices of ISPs … conducting independent testing for blocking, degradation, or other discriminatory action," the TACD said in a statement.
Virgin Media hostility
While customers are bound to welcome the proposals, some ISP employees have already declared their hostility. None more so that Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett, who is down on record as saying net neutrality is “a load of bollocks” - although he is adamant that his comments were taken out of context.
Ofcom have released the following statement to TechRadar regarding their stance on TACD's calls for net neutrality:
"Traffic prioritisation is a commercial decision available to ISPs and is likely to be necessary in the future if different types of traffic (voice, video, data) are to be delivered in ways that consumers expect.
"Ofcom believes that customers should be informed at the time of the purchase of the service of any restrictions that may be placed and, if changes are made during the period of the contract, of any related changes made. Ofcom is talking to the ISPs to examine the best way that information can be provided to consumers in a meaningful and easily understandable way."