Home UK Government Says ISPs Should Be Free to Abandon Net Neutrality

UK Government Says ISPs Should Be Free to Abandon Net Neutrality

The British Communications Minister Ed Valzey said in a speech today that Internet service providers should be free to prioritize users’ access to certain content providers, a move that would effectively end net neutrality in the UK. As long as customers were informed of the actions, said Valzey, ISPs should be able to manage Internet traffic in such a way that certain sites are favored in terms of speed and bandwidth.

This move could allow sites to pay ISPs to ensure that their content gets priority, making it very hard, for example, for new companies to compete with the deeper pockets of more established businesses, the latter of whom would have websites that were faster and more responsive.

“Under the new provisions providers must present information about their service, including the nature and extent of their traffic management policies and their impact on service quality in a clear, visible and easy to understand form for all their customers,” Valzey told a telecom conference in London. While Valzey framed this in terms of transparency, openness, and a free market, many companies have warned that allowing this sort of discrimination in Internet traffic would not foster growth but would instead hamper innovation.

But in his speech, Valzey argued that a “lightly regulated Internet is good for business, good for the economy, and good for people.” He argued that ISPs already manage traffic and that there has been no “evidence of any impact either on competition or consumers from traffic management.”

But the Guardian quotes Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, as warning that “Removing net neutrality is likely to reduce innovation and reduce people’s ability to exercise their freedom of speech.”

The Guardian also notes, in an op-ed, that net neutrality has not been a major issue in the UK, but today’s comments from Valzey may change that.

Speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit today, the U.S. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his support for net neutrality, arguing that its existence helps to “maximize innovation and investment.” But clear policies on net neutrality still faces an uphill battle in the U.S.

Photo credits: Flickr

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