Net Neutrality in New Times Workshop hosted by Strathclyde

On Monday 17 September 2021 Dr Oles Andriychuk, Dr Angela Daly and Arletta Gorecka from the Strathclyde Centre for Internet Law and Policy (SCILP) were delighted to host an online workshop for their commissioned research by BT on net neutrality. 

Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) ensure users can access (legal) content, programmes and devices, and do not discriminate between Internet traffic such as by blocking, slowing down or speeding up traffic. 

In 2015, the European Union introduced the Regulation 2015/2120, or the Open Internet Regulation, which contained net neutrality rules; as the UK was still an EU Member State, these became part of the law in the UK, and remain so currently. However, in the 5 years since the Regulation was introduced, there has been limited research or appraisal of how the Regulation has worked, whether it has achieved its aims and whether it is still appropriate for the ‘new times’ we live in, with Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and technological change – a gap this project aims to fill. 

During 2021, SCILP has been conducting research on trajectories for net neutrality since the 2015 Regulation, a snapshot of which can be found in this new report, which was launched at a multi-stakeholder online workshop on Monday 13 September 2021. SCILP was honoured to include the following guests as members of an expert panel at the event:

  • Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer Division
  • Nina Cumming, Facebook UK’s Telecoms Public Policy Manager (Connectivity and Access)
  • Jim Killock, Executive Director of UK digital rights NGO Open Rights Group
  • Christopher Marsden, Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sussex
  • Ed Vaizey, member of the UK House of Lords and former UK Government Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries 

The panel discussed aspects of net neutrality in these new times, including the need for flexibility in regulation, supporting innovation, and ensuring networks are not overwhelmed. However, the wider public interests in digital infrastructure must also be taken into account in any reform. 

The floor was then opened for a lively discussion among the project team, the panellists and the participants, who hailed from different parts of the world (including the US, Japan, India and Europe) and comprised representatives of different stakeholder groups. Participants shared insights from their countries’ experiences with net neutrality regulation, or a lack thereof, and brought everyone up to date with new net neutrality-related developments. Participants also discussed similarities and differences between the UK scenario and other jurisdictions’ situations. 

The SCILP project team will be proceeding with their research on this topic, looking to contribute to the academic literature on net neutrality and stay abreast of policy developments, especially the current Ofcom call for evidence on net neutrality and its next steps.