Ministers have published details of changes to be made to the UK’s net neutrality laws to ensure they remain relevant after Brexit.
The law requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) treat all web traffic equally and in a non-discriminatory way and ensure, for example, that no ISP can slow down attempts to visit or access services owned by competitors, and also stop ISPs charging firms for their services to be delivered more speedily or reliably than those of rival businesses.
Existing regulations stem from European Union law and concerns had initially been raised that the UK’s departure from the EU would mean the rules would no longer apply.
Parliament’s passing of the European Union Withdrawal Act earlier this year means all existing EU law will now be converted into UK law, ensuring there’s no sudden change in the nation’s regulatory framework.
However, like a majority of EU derived law, the EU Open Internet Access Regulation makes a number of references to EU agencies and has had to be tweaked to ensure it remains operable following Brexit.
Using powers contained in the Withdrawal Act, ministers have updated the regulations to remove reference to any EU agencies, substitute Ofcom in place of references to ‘national regulatory authorities’ and to remove all mention of “common” EU rules.
They’ve also removed requirements that Ofcom pays regard to guidelines issued by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications when enforcing the rules, though it will be free to consult the guidelines at its discretion, and axed a rule requiring Ofcom to provide reports to the European Commission.
A briefing paper drawn up by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport says: “Despite these changes, we consider that the overall policy position will remain the same, with Ofcom regulating according to the same principles and able to reference the same scope of guidelines if it so wishes.”