What is Net Neutrality and Will it Affect UK Business?

by Robert Best on December 20, 2017
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net neutrality and what it means for uk business

Last week the top media regulator in the US voted to repeal net neutrality protections. Whilst, this is American lawmakers repealing an American law, there are concerns it could affect UK citizens and businesses.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the term used to describe the regulations that mean internet service providers should treat all the data they are providing to their customers equally. It also means they can't use their own structure to block or hamper competitors.

Simply put this means internet providers, and for us in the UK that would be the likes of Sky, BT and Virgin, are prevented from throttling internet speeds to certain services or customers. For example, BT couldn't run Netflix at a slower speed than it would run Amazon Prime.

When you currently use the internet any website you visit will be given the same internet speed. That is the heart of net neutrality.

Do we have net neutrality in the UK?

The principle is active in British law as part of the European Union's regulation on open internet access. Before this regulation the UK already had a voluntary system in place.

The Chair of the UK Internet Services Providers Association Council, Andrew Glover said: "The changes to net neutrality rules in the US do not have an impact on customers of UK ISPs. For a long time, UK providers have been committed to preserving an open internet through a voluntary code."

The driving force behind removing net neutrality is the lack of competition between providers in the US. Critics of net neutrality say that it stops competitive pricing and means areas of the county are left with a depleted service. That situation is different in the UK.

Till Sommer, from the UK's Internet Service Providers Association, told Sky News: "We have strong standards backed up by regulations and we have a highly competitive broadband market that allows consumers to switch and choose the provider that best meets their needs."

Could net neutrality be removed in the UK?

This is another area that is now uncertain because of Brexit. As part of the UK leaving the European Union, our Great Repeal Bull will transfer many EU laws into UK law.

As our version of net neutrality is a European regulation, there is potential for this law being removed or amended by MPs. It is worth noting that there is no speculation, as of yet, that this would actually happen.

Right now, the competitive internet provider market in the UK means net neutrality isn't as big of a deal here. But changes in America are always bound to have an affect on this country. What is unclear is what that affect would actually be.

One thing is for sure, that the internet has become such a large part of our daily life and our business world, that the rights of consumers will always need to be protected.

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