BT Group consumer CEO Marc Allera (pictured) called for net neutrality rules in the UK to be eased, highlighting the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic had resulted in certain large sites and platforms driving huge data traffic and costs on to mobile networks.

In a blog, Allera said BT was now reviewing its decision to zero-rate popular websites such as certain educational platforms which helped children continue to learn when schools in the country were shut.

“The problem we face is, allowing access for free to certain websites is incompatible with current net neutrality agreements,” he said. “Zero-rating large sites, for us and any other network operator, drives huge data traffic and costs onto networks.”

Allera noted the way its networks were being accessed and used were not equal, and the pandemic had shown “there are very good reasons to enable preferential access to certain platforms”.

Current European Union regulation still in force in the UK is designed to protect the open internet, meaning large providers cannot restrict specific internet traffic, or slow or block access to platforms.

Allera added current net neutrality agreements had put pressure on networks to sustain the rise of popular content and gaming platforms, with the biggest spike in traffic on its fixed networks arising from major sporting events and games downloads.

“For network owners, this is driving considerable extra cost”, he said, adding regulatory and UK market pressure remained on pushing prices down for all its customers.