UK telecom regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into Hutchison 3G UK (Three) and Vodafone (Vodafone) over a possible breach of the EU Open Internet Access Regulation
The regulator is claiming it has evidence that both mobile network operators (MNOs) are engaged in illegal network traffic management practices. The two mobile companies are specifically being investigated over whether they throttled internet speeds while customers were aboard.
Ofcom will investigate Three’s practices of restricting tethering on certain plans offered by Three; imposing restrictions on the devices in which a SIM can be used; and traffic management practices such as ‘throttling’ or intentionally slowing down particular categories of traffic, including where traffic management is applied when customers are roaming.
In relation to Vodafone, Ofcom will investigate traffic management practices relating to ‘Vodafone Passes’, including where traffic management is applied when customers are roaming; and the transparency of exceptions to zero rating within the ‘Vodafone Passes’ products, which mean that certain functions within certain zero-rated applications will use customers’ general data allowance and not be zero-rated.
Ofcom said: “We are continuing to review the information gathered from other fixed and mobile internet service providers under this programme. We expect to publish a further update on both investigations and any other relevant work under this programme in June 2018.”
Ofcom said it would initiate separate investigations of named providers and take enforcement action against them if specific issues were identified. The ‘open internet’ principle ensures that web users control what they see and do online – not the broadband provider that connects them to the internet.
Under EU regulations, which came into effect on 30 April 2016, broadband providers are required to treat all internet traffic on their networks equally, without preferential treatment to any particular sites or services.
However, providers may use certain reasonable measures to manage their internet traffic, to ensure their networks run efficiently and these measures must be based on technical quality of services reasons. The EU Open Internet Access Regulation 2015 requires Ofcom to monitor and ensure UK providers comply with these rules.