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Monday, July 19, 2010

Ofcom speech analysis: video QoS yes? Skype-blocking no?

Your guess might be better than mine - what do you think of this passage from Ed Richards' UCL speech last week? The speech is particularly interesting elsehwere than in this bit, which obviously had to be bland to conform to the ongoing consultation. Its certainly less interventionist on openness and interoperability than the European Commissioner whom he followed:

Here in the UK, there have been no formal complaints about anti-competitive discrimination, although there have been a number of modest disagreements between content/service providers and ISPs/mobile operators. It is in this vein that we do not currently see a compelling reason for preventing, ex ante, all forms of discrimination using our sector-specific regulatory powers. But if genuine problems of anti-competitive practices in relation to traffic management emerged, we would of course have the ability to intervene applying our full range of ex post competition powers as appropriate. 
This allows us to take a measured approach, allowing certain practices – such as permitting operators and ISPs to set differentiated quality of service – which may prove beneficial to consumers, but which could be caught by a blanket prohibition, whilst at the same time being able to take effective action to curb any genuinely anti-competitive practices that may emerge. Although the evidence at this stage suggests a blanket prohibition is undesirable, our initial stance in this debate is that consumer transparency must be guaranteed wherever traffic management occurs. Consumers need to have information available to them. They need to know what policy their internet provider applies, and how this affects the service they receive. In a competitive market, they can then exercise choice including this criterion. Developing some basic principles around transparency, and ensuring that operators and ISPs comply with these principles, is consistent with our broader functions and duties as a sector regulator.
I take it that they'll allow traffic management for video in most circumstances - maybe with a spat with Sky -  but if leant on by Brussels will stop outright VOIP blocking by the mobiles (who instead would have to compete with Skype by offering digital voice as a differentiated premium product). Small mercies for consumers, it looks like there will be greater attention paid to transparency of practices at least. That is all - expect more from the EC if anyone.

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