ISPs That Restrict Porn or Block Ads Could Be Breaking EU Guidelines

Internet service providers that restrict online access to pornography or block ads could be breaking EU guidelines on net neutrality even if customers opt in.

Censorship

ISPs Sky, BT and TalkTalk already block access to adult sites following pressure from the government, as do mobile operators such as O2. Mobile operator Three has also recently run a trial of ad blocking that asked users to opt in.

EU regulations only allow providers to block content for three reasons: to comply with a member state’s laws, to manage levels of traffic across a network, or for security.

Blocking adult content falls into a grey area, with no clear legal framework in UK legislation, and providers have relied on providing the ability to opt in to protect themselves from falling foul of the rules.

However, an update to guidelines issued by EU body Berec says that even if a person indicates they want certain content to be blocked, it should be done on their device, rather than at a network level.

The updated guidelines say: “With regard to some of the suggestions made by stakeholders about traffic management features that could be requested or controlled by end-users, Berec notes that the regulation does not consider that end-user consent enables ISPs to engage in such practices at the network level.

“End-users may independently choose to apply equivalent features, for example via their terminal equipment or more generally on the applications running at the terminal equipment, but Berec considers that management of such features at the network level would not be consistent with the regulation.”

Interpretation of the EU guidelines falls to Ofcom, but the UK regulator must take them into account when deciding if there has been a breach.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “Ofcom will monitor compliance with the new rules, and look into any complaints received. We will consider any potential breaches as they arise in accordance with our interpretation of the regulation, and drawing upon the Berec guidelines to inform our approach.”

Frode Sorensen, co-chair of the Berec expert working group on net neutrality refused to comment on specific cases or countries, but said the updated guidance made it clear that it had found no legal basis for using customer choice to justify blocking any content without national legislation or for reasons of traffic management or security.

Read the full Guardian article: http://goo.gl/UKlLkX