UK regulator Ofcom reiterated it was yet to see sufficient evidence to support charges being levied on content providers by operators for carrying traffic, as it issued updated guidelines on which services are allowed under the UK’s net neutrality rules.

Ofcom set out its initial view on the so-called fair share debate within a consultation launched in October 2022, which primarily was undertaken to clarify its stance on the application of net neutrality in the country.

Discussing the prospect of operators charging content companies in its statement today (26 October), Ofcom noted it had “not seen sufficient evidence that this is needed”. However it also noted this policy “would require a change to the rules and therefore be a matter for government and parliament”.

In terms of net neutrality, it said there had been significant developments in the online ecosystem, including the launch of 5G and growth of large content providers, since UK legislation was issued in 2016. This prompted the review process to clarify what fixed and mobile providers were allowed to do.

Ofcom’s guidelines now confirm operators are clear to: provide retail broadband and mobile packages offering premium connectivity for applications such as gaming; develop specialist services to support demanding applications such as driverless cars and remote surgery; and use traffic management to avoid network congestion at peak times.  

It also noted packages which zero-rate certain content or services were allowed in “most circumstances”.

Ofcom director of connectivity Selina Chadha said net neutrality rules were “designed to constrain the activities of broadband and mobile providers, however, they could also be restricting their ability to develop new services and manage their networks efficiently”.

“We want to make sure they can also innovate, alongside those developing new content and services, and protect their networks when traffic levels might push networks to their limits.”