Lockdown: Vodafone will not offer free access to BBC Bitesize

Publishedduration52 minutes agoSharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingimage copyrightskynesherimage captionEven if families have equipment, they may not have broadband or enough mobile data to have multiple devices online

Vodafone will not offer data-free access to BBC Bitesize during lockdowns in the UK, saying it is not technically possible to ring-fence it from other BBC content.

Mobile companies have been asked to find ways to make home-schooling easier for families without fixed broadband.

Most, including Vodafone, have announced education resource Oak National Academy will be free.

But only BT, EE and Plusnet have said the same for BBC Bitesize.

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Vodafone told BBC News its technical team had concluded it was not possible to offer free access to BBC Bitesize without doing so for the whole of the BBC's UK website.

The company's general counsel and external affairs director Helen Lamprell said zero-rating educational sites "sounds simple enough to do in theory but there are a number of technical and legal challenges".

"For example, if an education-resource site hosts some of its content on another platform, such as YouTube, as is often the case, we would have to zero-rate the whole of YouTube," she said.

That is "not fair to other content providers" and would be difficult to square with "legal obligations around net neutrality".

Net neutrality, the principle all traffic should be treated equally, has been enshrined in EU law and seems to have been adopted by the UK, post-Brexit.

On its website, the regulator Ofcom says broadband providers "must treat all internet traffic on their networks equally, and not favour certain websites or services".