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RA invites views on ‘open internet’

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Internet users who access video-streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube, or calling services like Skype, should not suffer inferior performance as a result of local service providers unjustifiably managing internet traffic.

That's the view of the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda, which is seeking public and stakeholder feedback on net neutrality, also referred to as “open internet”.

The RA believes that internet service providers in Bermuda should not be the sole decision-makers on how internet traffic and services are delivered.

It has taken a “proposed position” that ISPs should not be allowed to block lawful internet content, slowdown or “throttle” selected services, nor prioritise some internet traffic over others in exchange for compensation.

The RA acknowledges that streaming TV and video services, and voice calls across the internet, known as IPTV and VoIP respectively, which are delivered via privately managed networks, may require a degree of traffic management during periods of high or exceptional usage to ensure they meet the quality that customers expect. This would impact bandwidth available to others.

However, the RA's “proposed position” is that local companies providing such managed TV offerings via the internet should disclose to customers if they use “justifiable, non-discriminatory internet traffic management procedures”. In addition, the authority said such companies should, in the long-term, invest in their networks to support the bandwidth capacity that they sell.

This is important for those customers using the internet in other ways, such as for services like Netflix, YouTube, Skype, or messaging services such as WhatsApp. These third-party services are delivered as “over-the-top”, or OTT services on the open network.

The RA said: “The authority expects that OTT services should not perform worse than specialised services where the ICOL's [Intergrated Communications Operating Licence] internet access service is advertised as sufficient to carry such levels of internet traffic. The authority may monitor the performance of OTT services and act if concerns are raised.”

This view is part of a 45-page consultation document now available from the RA website. The authority is seeking feedback between now and June 28 on issues relating to maintaining an open internet.

Open internet is the principle that internet service providers must provide the public with access to all lawful websites and online data without discrimination, for example, access to stream movies, send e-mails or interact on social media platforms.

Denton Williams, chief executive at the RA, said: “The authority is established to regulate the electricity and electronic communications sectors in Bermuda and protect consumers.

“Our role in this instance is to develop the rules for open internet and to clearly define what ISPs can and cannot do with internet traffic. In some jurisdictions, ISPs influence what their customers see and how quickly they see it, by speeding up some services and slowing down or even blocking access to legal content or apps.”

The authority has a number of proposed positions on issues such as zero-rating tariffs, internet traffic management, the right for customers to chose their terminal equipment, transparency and other obligations for internet service suppliers, together with technical and contract monitoring. In some instances the RA is still considering its options.

The consultation document explains each issue and highlights the approaches taken in other jurisdictions, including the EU, US, Canada and Australia.

The RA is asking for feedback from the public, businesses in the electronic communications sector and any other interested parties, by visiting their website at www.rab.bm and selecting the “Open Internet Consultation” link on the homepage by June 28

Seeking views: Denton Williams, CEO of the Regulatory Authority

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Published May 21, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 21, 2019 at 9:09 am)

RA invites views on ‘open internet’

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