Joint Letter to Ed Vaizey: Open Internet

To The Hon. Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

cc the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

30 November 2010

Dear Minister,

The Open Internet

We welcome your recent statement that the UK Government supports access to the open Internet. In particular we support your call for adherence to the openness principle both for fixed and mobile access to the Internet, whereby

–        “consumers should always have the ability to access any legal content or service,

–        content and service providers should have the ability to innovate and reach end users.”[1]

This is the first time that such a clear political commitment has been made in the UK to preserve the end-to-end principle that underpins the Internet, and the benefits it brings to citizens, consumers, businesses and economic growth.

In order to safeguard these benefits for all stakeholders in the future, five key principles are important complements to this political commitment:

  1. The Internet should remain open so that everyone is able to send and receive the content, use the services and run the applications of their choice, on the device of their choice, within the law.
  2. Traffic management should be kept to a minimum, and deployed for purely technical, security or legal reasons. There should be no discrimination in the treatment of Internet traffic, based on device, or the origin and/or destination of the content, service or application. 
  3. Meaningful information about any traffic management practices must be made available to all stakeholders, end users and businesses who rely on broadband infrastructure to reach their customers.
  4. Future investment in network capacity and underlying infrastructure must take place in a way that is consistent with the end-to-end principle and where new models of Internet access do not compromise openness.
  5. For competitive markets to function effectively, the regulatory framework must be fit for purpose and able to respond to abuses by network providers.

End-users’ choice of which applications, content, and services to view, use or run is already restricted in the UK today, especially when accessing the Internet on mobile. The Government’s commitment to the open Internet must be reflected in action on the ground to remove any such arbitrary restrictions to the open Internet. We also recommend the Government’s policies on the open Internet and traffic management take account of citizens’ access to public services online in the future. 

In conclusion, we call on the UK Government to add more detail to its position in support of the open internet by:

  • protecting the open internet through a judicious implementation of the new EU legislation for electronic communications.
  • requiring Ofcom to closely monitor the market and demonstrate that effective and timely enforcement processes are in place to respond to complaints about unfair discrimination from any affected stakeholder.
  • pressing UK Internet service providers to urgently develop meaningful self-regulation to ensure fair principles around traffic management to serve as a benchmark for assessing what is or is not acceptable practice, as has been done in other countries.  Ofcom should step in if ISPs do not deliver this in a timely way.
  • ensuring that Ofcom’s forthcoming review on switching delivers real benefits to broadband subscribers in terms of their ability to change providers and drive meaningful choice between broadband Internet packages.
  • conducting a wide-ranging policy debate about this crucial subject for the future competitiveness of the UK’s economy and well-being of UK society, and adopting a joined-up approach in policy making, by assessing long-term implications of traffic management practices and the maintenance of an open Internet for the economy, for consumers and citizen’s interests, including freedom of expression, access to public services and digital inclusion. 

Jeff Lynn, Chairman, The Coalition for a Digital Economy

Julie Meyer, CEO, Ariadne

Erik Huggers, Director, Future Media & Technology, BBC

Robert Hammond, Head of Post and Digital Communications, Consumer Focus

Stefan Krawczyk, Senior Director and Counsel Government Relations Europe, ebay


Charles Grimsdale, Partner, eden Ventures

Andrew McClelland, Director of Operations, IMRG

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary, NUJ

Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group

Professor William Dutton, Director, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Richard Anson, CEO, Revoo

Jean-Jacques Sahel, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, Europe, Middle-East & Africa, Skype

Elizabeth Varley, Co-Founder and CEO, techhub

Mike Butcher, Co-Founder, Coadec

James Tagg, Chief Technical Officer, Truphone


David Maher Roberts, CEO, The Filter


Agnés Callamard, Executive Director, Article 19

Emma Ascroft, Director of Public & Social Policy — Yahoo! UK & Ireland