Ofcom is Investigating Three and Vodafone for Allegedly Throttling Traffic, Amongst Other Things

By Tom Pritchard on at

While the American government might not have enough sense to understand the benefits of net neutrality, and the idea that all web traffic should be treated equally, it's still a thing here in the UK. And because it's still a thing here (and in the rest of the EU) Ofcom has launched an investigation into both Three and Vodafone to ensure their practices actually comply with net neutrality rules - specifically the EU Open Internet Access Regulation 2015.

According to Ofcom's report, Three will be under investigation for its practices of restricting tethering on certain phone plans, restricting which devices SIM cards can be used in, and deliberately throttling certain kinds of web traffic (videos, P2P connections, and VPNs are mentioned) in the UK and abroad. Vodafone is also being investigated for 'traffic management practises' with relation to its zero-rated Vodafone Passes, and the lack of transparency about exceptions within zero-rated apps that will end up being deducted from a customers' data allowance.

It's worth nothing that this isn't the first time networks have faced accusations that they've been throttling data speeds for roaming customers. Last year EE faced criticism for cutting roaming speeds unless customers paid for daily passes, Vodafone customers also complained about slow speeds, while O2 admitted it had been throttling roaming speeds - while maintaining it was just a temporary thing. Three, meanwhile, doesn't offer 4G to its customers accessing data while abroad.

Speaking to BBC News, Vodafone expressed disappointment in Ofcom's investigation, saying:

"Our Passes allow customers to access their favourite content without fear of running out of data or attracting out-of-bundle charges. Vodafone does not 'throttle' speeds on Vodafone Passes, either in the UK or while customers are roaming.

The Video Pass is optimised so that all of our customers have a high-quality experience when streaming content on the network. Optimising means making the bandwidth available that enables videos to be delivered in a faster, more efficient way, while still providing the best smartphone viewing experience, and without compromising the experience of other customers who do not use a Vodafone Pass."

It's not clear what that optimisation involves, but naturally the point of net neutrality is to ensure all traffic is equal for everyone - not just the people who pay £9 a month to watch unlimited Netflix. That's the kind of thing Ofcom will be looking into, with that information passed onto use when it publishes its findings this June.

Three didn't have much to say, simple announcing that it would be "working closely with Ofcom to understand their concerns". [Ofcom via BBC News]

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