In the United States net neutrality laws ensuring a free and open internet are crumbling, but in the UK and EU the founding principles of the internet are very much enshrined.
Two major UK networks have been accused of abusing the rules and are now subject to an Ofcom investigation.
The communications regulator is probing whether Three and Vodafone are “throttling” 4G speeds for some online services or restricting access to services in a manner that contravenes EU law.
Specifically, Ofcom is looking into Three’s decision to restrict mobile tethering from its 4G-enabled devices.
This is the practice of piggy-backing on a data connection from a primary device. So, on networks that allow it, users can use their smartphone to get online using their laptop in instances where there’s no Wi-Fi. Personally speaking, this allows me to work outside when the weather is nice.
Ofcom is also looking at the way Three prevents customers using their smartphone SIM-cards in a 4G-enabled tablet.
Proponents of tethering point out customers have paid for the data so should be allowed to use it however they see fit.
Roaming quality restricted?
As for Vodafone, Ofcom is investigating more traditional accusations of speed throttling.
It is looking at whether Vodafone slows speeds of customers using the ‘Vodafone Passes’. These tariffs offer users unlimited access to streaming services, social media and more, without
The regulator is particular interested in Voda’s ‘traffic management’ strategies for customers using Passes while roaming.
A Vodafone spokesperson says it seeks to “optimise” traffic while customers are roaming, but denies slowing down access to those services. It admits some customers may experience reduced quality streams as a result of the optimisation (via FT).
The company said it was “very disappointed with Ofcom’s decision to target Vodafone Passes”.
Three was somewhat less incredulous promising to “work closely with Ofcom to understand their concerns”.
Should Ofcom find the networks contravened rules, under the EU Open Internet Access Regulation 2015, they could be fined 10% of their annual earnings.
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