Net Neutrality: the Plum report on the Open Internet
As part of the ongoing debate about traffic management (or 'net neutrality' as it is sometimes referred to), I have been leading the BBC's discussions with Government and regulators about the subject.
The BBC strongly believes that the open internet needs to be safeguarded to ensure consumers can access all the internet content and services of their choice. We're not opposed to premium internet services if consumers want to pay extra, but it's critical that no matter how many fast lanes there are, the 'best efforts' open internet should itself provide a very good, and consistently and fairly delivered, service.
Along with some other internet content and service providers, we commissioned a study which has now been published. The report considers some of the telcos' main arguments for introducing more traffic management - including that their costs are ballooning due to traffic growth; that content providers 'free ride' on networks; and that introducing charges for content providers is necessary to help investment in superfast broadband.
Plum's report [PDF] challenges these arguments and says that, in practice, great content from providers such as the BBC drives demand for broadband connectivity, which in turn has driven fixed and mobile broadband revenues of approximately €155 billion in Europe in 2010.
The report responds to the Secretary of State's challenge at the Open Internet roundtable in March for industry to develop some 'rules of the road' to build on the existing transparency work by ISPs. It does not call for additional regulation at this stage but this clearly remains an option if a self-regulatory approach fails.
We support Plum's analysis and recommendations, and think it makes a useful contribution to the debate.
John Tate is Director, BBC Policy & Strategy and Chairman, BBC Studios & Post-Production