Swiss telcos form net neutrality agreement

The four leading Swiss service providers, as well as the country’s cable operator association Swisscable, have joined forces to formulate an official code of conduct on net neutrality. Swisscom, Sunrise, UPC Cablecom and Orange, as well as Swisscable, are working to keep the internet open in Switzerland, according to an official statement from Swisscom.

The intention is to ensure consumers in the country will continue to have access to content, services, applications, hardware and software of their choosing, with no service or application restrictions. Furthermore, freedom of information and the freedom to express opinion will not be restricted. All liberations and freedoms are, logically, subject to the legality of their nature.

“The code states that network management for the purpose of ensuring quality and provision of services tailored to end users may continue, for example when official rulings have to be put into effect, harmful activity blocked or capacity bottlenecks bypassed,” Swisscom said in an official statement. “In addition, time-critical services may be prioritised, if customers so wish. This includes, for example, IP telephony, television, emergency calls, video conferencing and future telemedicine applications, in which data has to reach customers as quickly as possible.”

In order to maintain such self-imposed regulation in an unbiased manner, the consortium of service providers will also be establishing an ombudsman’s office which will engage with independent experts.

The consortium’s code of conduct, however, does concede that not all data traffic may be treated equally, and hints that this has always been the case. Using the example of VoIP or video streaming services the code of conduct states: “It is extremely important that all data gets to the user as quickly as possible in order to ensure that data‐based voice services (VoIP) and IP‐based television are of the highest quality. Otherwise it is not possible to guarantee the high level of voice and image quality promised to customers and paid for by them.”

The same applies to emergency calls and telemedicine, to ensure that critical services are prioritised. However, the principle applies to ensuring no end-user experiences are affected by traffic prioritisation, or that operators show preferential treatment to varying content delivery services.

There appears to be differing opinion within the industry around how to manage demand from customers and businesses and the delivery of services in a fair and neutral way. In a completely opposing perspective to that of Verizon, who made a thinly veiled threat at the FCC over the imposition of net neutrality regulation, this operator-led consortium seems committed to applying self-regulating policy on how to maintain the open internet.

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