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ISPs will be honest about traffic management

David Ludlow
14 Mar 2011
ISP to reveal throttling techniques in quest for honesty
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Plans to transparently show exactly what measures are put in place

The UK's biggest ISPs have signed up to a voluntary code of conduct to help consumers see what broadband speeds they'll really get.

Sky, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Three and Virgin Media have all signed up to the code, as part of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, in an effort to make it easier for consumers to compare speeds across providers.

A key part of this is making it easier to access traffic management policies, so consumers can find out exactly what's in place on their connection and what impact it will have. Traffic management has become more important over the past few years, as many ISPs deliberately throttle certain traffic, such as BitTorrent, at peak periods during the day.

"There has been more heat than light in the debate about traffic management over recent years. This commitment to provide clear and comparable information in a common format is very important," said Antony Walker, chief executive of the Broadband Stakeholder Group.

This code is certainly a welcome improvement, where broadband is merely sold as an 'up to speed'. Often extra information is just limited to a mention of a 'fair usage policy', although how these work and how they apply are often practically impossible to find out.

One concern mentioned in the announcement is how the new code could apply to ISPs prioritising access to certain websites, such as the BBC iPlayer. If ISPs move down this route, with guaranteed levels of service of certain services, it could end up with consumers paying more to get decent access to common websites.

The code will be piloted this year and the implementation reviewed and fine-tuned in 2012. Interested parties will be invited to provide feedback and will include some consumer groups. It's hoped that other ISPs will join in and adopt the code, making for a more transparent way of buying and comparing broadband packages.

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