Ofcom has published a call for evidence on net neutrality as part of a wider review into the legislation, which guarantees the principles of the open Internet.
The communications regulator confirmed plans to review the rules earlier this year, with the UK government now having greater flexibility to adjust its policies following Brexit.
Essentially, net neutrality forbids service providers from prioritising certain applications beyond standard traffic management measures and from charging content providers for additional fees for the preferential treatment.
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UK net neutrality review
It was feared such practices would threaten the development of an open Internet and make it more difficult for startups and innovative applications to compete with larger players.
However mobile and broadband operators argue that it unfair that they have to invest in the network infrastructure to support increasingly data intensive applications such as online gaming and streaming from which others profit.
Ofcom says that since the rules were implemented back in 2016, there had been several developments in the online world, including demand for greater capacity, the importance of cloud technology, and the advent of 5G.
“So in light of these developments, Ofcom is carrying out a review of the framework to ensure it continues to best serve people’s interests while supporting competition, innovation and investment,” it said. “We have not made any recommendations at this stage and any changes to the framework would be a matter for the UK Government.”
Any move to weaken the legislation would be opposed by campaigners but welcomed by telcos who want more flexibility to support data intensive applications such as streaming and online gaming.
“It’s in everyone’s interests to maintain a fair and open internet but that requires rules to adapt to the way the internet has evolved,” said Marc Allera, BT Consumer CEO. “With the dependency on online services continuing to grow, we believe the time is right for Ofcom to be reviewing this important area, supporting the industry to enable a positive experience for all users in the years ahead.”
Ofcom will accept evidence until November and will publish its findings early next year.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.