back to article Ofcom: ISPs can cripple the web as much as they please

UK regulator Ofcom won't force operators into net neutrality pacts, being happy to rely on competitive pressure to keep the web open, but it does want transparency for customers. Ofcom's basic position is that network operators can do whatever they like, as long as they let their customers know what they're doing. Anyone …


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  1. Ragarath

    OFCOM bears it's gums again. All it's teeth fell out long ago!

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Time for a toothace

      Well, let all ISPs throttle to, lets say, 1byte/second. Maybe that'll help them to feel the pain when the teeth are lost.

    2. WonkoTheSane

      Wait a minute...

      OFCOM had teeth?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't like this

    I would prefer net neutrality (this is a slippery slope, involving lots of small print - and will get very very messy). One ISP's definition of 'peer-peer' or streaming media will not necessarily be the same and the others - so our ability to compare will be impared.

    The only thing I would add to the mandatory traffic management disclosure (if this happens) is their treatment of VPN traffic - as lots of people will start moving their 'filtered' connections to VPN.

    I can see a big market in the future for VPN providers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Never was neutral

      The net never was neutral to begin with.

      ISPs have to make peering arrangements as well as transit. Some ISPs will always be better connected to content provider X than content provider Y.

      Fundamentally it boils down to this: Some things a physically further away than others this makes linking them together more expensive in some cases and cheaper in other.

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Never was neutral

        What you have described, I would say is still neutral; when a pipe fills up, nothing extra goes down it. If Demon internet host MS stuff, then downloading it gives higher speeds than accessing something else down the end of a clogged pipe. I'm OK with that (until they reduce the "other internet pipe" to 512kbits/s and the other pipes only go to Facebook.

        What I consider to not be neutrality is looking at packet type, seeing that it is VOIP and throttling it back, unless it happens to be a VOIP packet going to their favored VOIP provider (probably themselves). Or say if Virgin Media throttle streaming video across their network unless it is going to their servers.

        If you have a problem with your tubes filling up, just divide the B/W between the users, don't go turning off some services and doing nothing to the others; that way is a slippery slope.

    2. Mark 65

      Indeed, it's great to see the regulator give its tacit approval to the ISPs to totally fuck over their clients by no doubt introducing ever more filtering post contract signing with the "market" able to sort things out. Great. It's just so easy to move ISPs when most want a 12 mth lock-in. Looks like there's still hope for the smaller players offering rolling monthly contracts on the basis of not being total arse holes and actually offering a service. Doubtless they'll end up getting squeezed out of existence by the vested interests. Colour me sceptical.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ahhh, the Ofcom house favourite. Never works, but it shuts the punters up for a while and saves you from having to actually do anything useful.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      I think that making ISPs own up to traffic shaping or throttling in a way that makes competitive comparison easy would be a really good idea.

      But I can't see them doing it and I can't see FailCom making them do it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many services can be blocked before a provider loses the right to call its service "internet access" isn't specified, so would come down to a case-by-case discussion.

    Clear as mud as usual then. Whats wrong with the English? They seems a bit "thick"!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You pays your money and takes your choice.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Unless you're on cable as you only can choose the local ISP (Usually Virgin). The other choice is the wonderful BT service (either direct or wholesale) and you can probably only get BT cable if you use their ISP?

      2. Yes Me Silver badge

        Taking your choice

        Consumer advocates should study RFC4084 carefully and use it to evaluate those who claim to be "Internet" service providers.

    2. MrCheese

      Accountability Diffusion

      The art of diverting, deflecting and dodging all blame, responsibility and accountability from oneself and one's actions can be only be master through a lifetime spent in high public office

  5. Matt 52

    Perhaps not

    See this on the;

    Blocking of sites is illegal under European law (best tell BT they need to unblock the newzbin site pretty quickly) but providing some sites at a slower speed than others would probably be ok

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Perhaps not

      And also, here, cough:

  6. Chad H.

    I think we need to make the distinction between "Postive" and "negative" traffic management

    If it involves bringing content "Closer" such that its quicer to access and doesnt chew up my data limit then I'm all for it.

    But simply crippling p2p or another service for no apparent reason at all - bad. If you want to control my traffic, put a proper download limit on it; don't tell me what I can use my allocation for.

    1. Chris 3

      I've never seen your "positive" management...

      ... ever described as traffic management. Caching, and the like - yes.

      1. Steve Knox


        From this article:

        " reality the internet is far from neutral already. The larger ISPs increasingly do deals with the big content providers to host their content closer to the edge of their networks, while smaller content providers languish in the depths of the internet and smaller ISPs struggle to compete.

        Ofcom's position [PDF] is not only that this is fine and fair, but that it is inevitable, so the question moves on to the best way to deal with the situation. As Ofcom puts it:

        'The question is not whether traffic management is acceptable in principle...'"

        That comes pretty close to describing what Chad H. described as traffic management, as I see it.

  7. Ru

    Huh, I actually approve of this

    So long as it is clear what an ISP provides, they can do whatever the hell they like. Thing is, whilst they can still get away with calling the most crippled, throttled, unreliable crap 'Unlimited* Super* Fast*!', too few people will be able to benefit from an open market that they simply do not understand.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Hear hear

      Too true, what's needed is bettter understanding of what people are actually getting, and better explanations to customers.

      Most people I know are more than happy to pay a relativly modest fee to people like Sky or Talk Talk to get a relative modest internet service, which does them just fine.

      If you want higher quality internet it's available, but you have to pay.

      I recently did one of those on line speed tests, and apparently I get just over 5Mb in an area where most other people who tested were averaging less than 2. (And I do too, usually download around the 620K/sec mark). Now that can't be down solely to the quality of the phone line as we're all in the same area, so must be down to the traffic shaping employed by the ISPs in use.

      It can't be a coincidence that all the other speed tests in my area were all from 'cheap' ISPs, and it does explain why a friend who lives in the same small village (and is on a 'cheap' ISP) is often complaining about Youtube buffering, where I only occasionally see pauses in HD iPlayer streaming.

      I pay a decent monthly fee for my internet however; now I know why. :)

      (FWIW, I'm with Be Internet, very happy with them! They even deal with BT for me, so when local miscreants stole the phone lines I didn't have to ring people... marvellous!)

      1. Florence

        As much as I despise the parent company...

        Sky's Broadband service* is actually very good.

        And no throttling:

        *the LLU one. Their BT Connect service has "network management" and a dreadful reputation.

  8. Allan 1

    Once again...

    The UK falls behind the rest of Europe..

    The Dutch have already enshrined net neutrality into law, and other EU states are soon to follow. Only the UK is waving bye bye to net neutrality.

    Who runs the UK these days? Government, or the Corporations?

    1. KroSha
      Big Brother

      Same thing, isn't it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The answer is.....

      Who runs the UK these days? Obvious answer would be the High Level Bankers.

      Those few unelected rich tycoons who control the corporations who in turn control the lobbyists who in turn put 'ideas' in the 'back pockets' of our elected MPs.

      Who owns the bankers. No-one, theirs is the winning ticket.

      Ofcom members themselves are all deeply embedded in the corporations. Middlemen in the food chain.

    3. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      To borrow from a well known Queensryche song,

      "Fighting fire with empty words,

      While the banks get fat,

      And the poor stay poor.

      The rich get rich,

      And the Gov gets paid,

      To look away as the one percent rules Britannia."

  9. Slightly_Odd_Child
    Big Brother

    What happened to the days of....

    Small no-name ISP's providing an un-throttled service that was well wworth the extra £5 a month. Ok so you had to put up with BT screwing with the exchange and sending everything t*ts-up every now and again but you still do!!

    Have BT and Virgin between them really absorbed all the little men into them like the horrific, monopolising, a-morphus monsters they really are? Stupid question really.......

    1. KroSha

      That would be O2 / Be then?

      1. Chad H.

        O2 is throttled.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      started off as a number of people pledging a tenner a month to kick start the service.

      Just needs enough like minded people, perhaps the Register could become an ISP?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      works for me.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Thats fine, allow compertition to dictate whats good an whats not, BUT the problem with this is language such as

    Fair use, Reasonable use.

    That all needs defined, ISPs need to define what makes them the ISP to go to which would allow the sector to goven them selves, at the moment, you sign up to a deal an you have no idea of the details until it bites you in the arse.

  11. Oliver 7

    Will we ever learn the lesson of 'light-touch' regulation?

    It's basically a licence for the ISPs to suit themselves, short-sell their customers and hinder competitiveness.

    But then Ofcom should have been burnt as an offering to government efficiencies anyway given how much use they are (flame icon).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporations run the country

    Cause you know who'll Cameroon and co will bend over happily for!

    1. Vic

      > Cause you know who'll Cameroon and co will bend over happily for!

      What, and Blair/Brown were any better?

      They're all pols. They're all muppets.


  13. MrCheese
    Thumb Down

    Get ready to pay.......again

    Yet more screwing-to-the-wall of yet more punters because these greedy oiks oversubscribed the network in the boom times before they had a clue how people would use it. Throw in the music industry's complete non-response to digital and the subsequent piracy problem, on-line gaming and the insatiable lust for the Cloud and all of a sudden they're crying and wailing about how much pressure we're putting on them without so much as even being honest about hte likely bandwidth.

    Traffic management will always happen on any network to boost performance but to do it to make up for the ISP's short fall is insulting


  14. nichomach

    So Ofcom finds...

    ....another reason to do nothing. Quelle surprise.

  15. Mr Cheddarfingers

    Self regulation

    Yeah, cos self regulation has worked so well with the banks and with the press.

    Self regulation = do whatever the fuck you want, as long as you keep slipping us our bribes and no one finds out.

  16. Simbu

    Kiss private investment goodbye...

    OFCOM fail again shocker!

    Now that ISPs have effectively been told they can piss about with their service however they like, what incentive is there to invest in infrastructure? Things getting slow? Lets throttle P2P! It's still slow? Throttle video streaming! Still slow? Throttle gaming! Where does it end?

    This is one massive financial incentive to spend as little as possible.

  17. Annakan

    Who needs freedom and rights when you can have rigged competition and market "pressure" ? :)

    Rigged : because how come that all ISP offers the same pricing and soon filtering policies being : "whatever we want when we want".

    Since when the society came out of the jungle ? When we decided the jungle was not the best way to foster, all of us. Not only the "strongest ape".

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tarriff Hell

    So ISPs will create a "basic" package, with all manner of throttling, and an "expert" package which costs more, but has less throttling. Then a "high quality" package which throttles, but not all day. Then a "economy" package with a raw speed of 5meg, but a real speed of 64K. Then a "gamers" package, which throttles everything except World of Warcraft. Then a "gamer+" that throttles everything except WoW and Call of Duty.

    You get the idea. Whatever happens, it won't be good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That would be the inevitably consequence of the "race to the bottom" inspired market we have. You can't have "cheapest ever" and "fastest ever" - something has to give. In that case varied packages that target different market segments to maximise appeal to customers with different requirements at different price points is actually quite a sane solution

      1. Miek

        Unless you fall into more than one of those market segments and have to pay through the arse for a bundle of services where all you really needed was a fast, uninterrupted internet connection.

  19. Tim of the Win

    Useless regulator is useless.

    Not only can you put a limit on something and sell it as unlimited. Now you don't even have to provide access to the whioe Internet.

  20. Stefing

    "Market forces"

    Very little good ever comes of them!

  21. Peter Galbavy

    how long until ...

    How long until BT find content on virgin media's own website "unacceptable" and block it to "protect" their customers... from competition ? Or visa versa.

    Surely Ofcom should - but are too much in the pockets of the big telcos - require a "significant market power" test for arbitrary blocking like this ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sooner than you might think

      Virgin for example already block competitors directory services. 'Sorry, this number is not available...'.

  22. Grendel

    How far can they go before breach of contract?

    The real problem is how far they can go before they are in breach of contract? What I mean by this is if I bought "internet access" and then they change it to "crippled internet access" will they let me out of my contract? If they won't let me out of my contract then where's the competitive pressure going to come from? I could end up locked in to a contract for DSL service for a year!

    I had an argument a bit like this with Demon internet 6-7 or so or so years ago when they, without warning, blocked ICMP on several of their London DSL nodes (like - this really mattered to me because one of the uses of my DSL at home was to monitor services at work. They said they had to "protect their network" - I argued that ICMP is a *core* part of the internet suit of protocols. After some to-and-fro they eventually gave in and let me transfer to Zen internet, whom I am still with ;-)

    Competition with strings or with no redress is meaningless in terms of pressure...


  23. Mectron

    Here how it should goes

    1. Any equipement/software designed to throttle or slow down the flow of internet traffic should be made illegal and all existing ones destroyed

    2. Any IPS throlling for any reason should be istantly shutdown, it asset seize and sold to the highes bidder, it's owner jailed for life (no parol) and fined for the total value of all the possession (personal or not)

    3. the MPAA/RIAA (those pushing for the throlling to cripple music/movie download) should be declared a terrorist organisation and also be shutdown and the membership fined one billion each for been part of a know and active terrorist group responcible for destroying more life then then any other terrorist group ever did.

    That is the *ONLY* viable way to PERMANANTLY solve the problem.

  24. CowardlyAndrew

    Yeah lets all go on strike until they give us a net neutral unlimited connection for £6.95 a month.

    Narnia is out there somewhere, but in the real world bandwidth costs money, and not just because of BT, try buying hosting in a data centre.


      UK ISPs inability to price their service profitably

      ... is not my problem.

      Its called 'basic economics', and it filters the wheat from the chaff.

  25. Andyb@B5

    From the other side

    For me its not about how fast my connection is numerically but whether it meets my needs. If I can play online games with minimal/no lag I'm happy, if I stream something via the BBC IPlayer and not be subject to buffering then I'm happy., what I want is a 'good enough' service.

    Instead of the providers saying we offer 12Mb 24MB 50MB oodlesofMB and then stating that your actual experience may "vary" I would rather they offer me a service which says we guarantee this *minimum* speed level, if it goes faster then lucky you.

    Oh yeah and if its a guaranteed minimum level then slap an SLA on it by which they can be penalised.

    1. Vic

      > if its a guaranteed minimum level then slap an SLA on it

      This is readily available. I can arrange it for you[1], if you'd like.

      It's not cheap, though. If you want cheap, you need the big shared pipe that everyone else uses...


      [1] I am a reseller, and can arrange anything from ADSL to dedicated fibre. But it isn't cheap...


    Stifle Innovation in the UK

    This will crush innovation in the UK.

    If you're not big enough to buy off the largest ISPs, you will be throttled out of existence.

  27. WibbleGTX

    Throttled to the point of uselessness

    I'm on cable and if I try to stream 2 HD programmes consecutively on iPlayer via my TV I hit the throttle about halfway through the 2nd. This instantly cuts my speed to 1Mb which is not enough to stream HD content so have to revert to SD for the 2nd show - Not what I bought a nice HD TV for!

  28. Atonnis

    Bunch of wankers...

    We pay for internet access - what we do with the damn internet access shouldn't be limited by the Internet Service Providers. If they want to do that sort of thing they should be forced to advertise as Limited Service Providers.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    whos fault?


    yup, im sorry to say that it is infact our fault (perhaps not you an I but the people in general)


    Because nobody gives a fook, we couldnt arrange a mass opinion that would force the govenment to tell OFCOM what to do because the vast majority of us couldnt be bothered, doesnt have a clue or has their head shoved up their own arse

    Fact is, its a regulator put in place FOR the people, but when the people cant bebothered to return its calls then whats it to do? answer, whatever it bloody well likes, side deals and bungs included.

    This isnt ment to be a popular comment but it is the truth, if the whole country grew some balls then things would be different, in no way am i justifying this, OFCOM has been a waste of time from year 1

  30. pctechxp

    I smell Bacon

    Ofcom will always rule to the benefit of those that pay the largest fees.

    The big boys care only about margins, service quality isn't on their list which is why:

    1. The throttle the crap out of connections to spend less on infrastructure or don't

    2. They outsource tech support to whereever they can get away with paying peanuts this month.

    Contrast this with the smaller operators that cost a bit more:

    1. UK based customer support

    2. No throttling.

    3. Regular investment in their networks.

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