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Is BT's bus lane a net neutrality crime?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 16:44 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

Has BT just blown a hole in the concept of net neutrality - in summary, equal rights for all forms of internet traffic? And if the telecoms giant has done that, is this an issue of any concern at all to British web users?

Bus in bus laneIt was a line in an interview conducted by my colleagues at BBC Click which provoked those questions. Jon Hurry, the commercial director at BT Retail told the programme:

"[A]t the moment with our TV service, BT Vision, we deliver entertainment content, video, at peak time to consumers via our network and we prioritise the traffic in order to be able to do this."

So BT is admitting, even boasting that it treats some forms of internet traffic better than others. Indeed, it's making it clear that its own online television service gets prioritised at the expense of its rivals.

Really? After a call to the BT press office I wasn't much clearer. I was told that Mr Hurry had perhaps not made the best choice of words in talking of prioritising traffic. What he meant was that BT Retail bought a product from BT Wholesale - there is an arms length relationship between the two divisions - which gave it an "assured quality of service" for BT Vision.

It was described to me as a kind of internet bus lane, which meant that users even on a 2Mbps line would get a reliable television service without the buffering and freezing that you can experience with web video. BT insists that this does not affect other web users in any way - although in my experience a bus lane always means a slower ride for other traffic - but also says that other web video operators are free to pay for a similar service.

Earlier this month when Google unveiled a similar, but much milder stance, which would see this kind of prioritisation allowed for mobile broadband traffic, it faced a chorus of outrage from the net neutrality purists and a demonstration outside its headquarters.

On the face of it, the BT case seems a much clearer breach of the spirit of net neutrality, but the company disagrees. Just as the regulator Ofcom argued in a recent paper on the issue, BT believes that net neutrality is a wholly different concept in the UK than in the United States. After all, we have a far more competitive market here, with consumers able to choose from a range of broadband suppliers, whereas in the US there is often little or no choice.

"Our view," said a BT spokesman, "is that ISPs should be free to strike commercial deals if content owners want to guarantee a certain level of service."

I asked the regulator Ofcom whether it was concerned, and was told that BT's bus lane appeared little different from the "traffic-shaping" used by many ISPs to throttle back services at times of peak demand. "There are no rules against this," a spokeswoman said.

The regulator and BT may be right to believe that in Britain consumers understand that the world won't end if firms are able to pay to make some internet traffic move faster. So far the issue just hasn't taken off in the UK - but perhaps this is the moment British web users start to get narked about net neutrality.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think this is controversial only because it's actually there in black and white. I'd be interested to see how many rules their routers have about what traffic to allow and disallow at different times of the day. I'm sure if would be an eye-opener...

  • Comment number 2.

    It's all too late anyway isn't it? Google & Verizon have already forced open a crack in Net Neutrality in the USA through wireless broadband regulation. The Telco lobby groups are so powerful on both sides of the Atlantic that sooner or later the Net Neutrality movement will be completely crushed by the corporates.

    In the UK nobody knows anything about Net Neutrality so nobody is going to get upset... until they realise the gatekeepers are back in charge and individuals/consumers no longer have a voice that can be heard.

    God, how depressing. It was all a nice experiment in freedom, while it lasted.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's interesting. If BT are actively discriminating in favour of their service then it would be a breach of net neutrality. If they're simply saying their service is given a high QoS priority in their network without discriminating against other high priority traffic then I doubt it would be.

    I'm assuming the quote implies the former, but it is slightly ambiguous in how he's termed it. Although, that being said the call you made to their office definitely implies the former.

    But again, this, along with throttling and all the other methods ISPs use, are hardly uncommon.

  • Comment number 4.

    BT prioritising it's own traffic when it's part of a service offered to users who pay for it explicitly is fine, really (plus, it's going to be a pretty constant amount of data getting stuffed through your Internet connection, so it's effectively a bandwidth reservation).

    The key is transparency. If I get my Internet access and a VoIP service together from a provider, it's a reasonable expectation that the VoIP service takes priority over everything.

    On the other hand, if BT artificially throttled or blocked competing IPTV/VoD services' traffic to and from their customers, this would be a breach of neutrality principles. Worse still if they did it for all of their customers, not just those who have BT Vision.

    If you're bored one day, go and find out how DOCSIS (Internet access from cable companies) works under the hood...

  • Comment number 5.

    I heard about this a while back when I was having problems with my Broardband speeds (I was getting better speeds before I swapped my calls to a different company.Line rental was still with BT), and I quote was told from a BT operator " BT customers will always get priority on a phone line over those on other providers who use our phone lines".

  • Comment number 6.

    This isn't exactly new Rory. BTVision has always had this quality of service system - so a couple of years or more now.

    It is there to deliver a guaranteed bandwidth for Vision users who are watching "on demand".

    It has no bearing on other ISPs, I've got not idea how you came to that conclusion. OK Jon may have got the wording slightly wrong, but to me he was referring to the BT network for BT broadband users, not their whole network used by other ISPs.

  • Comment number 7.

    Unfortunately not all broadband users in the UK do have a choice. My ISP is Karoo (not BT) and there is no other provider in the area which covers about 500,000 people. Karoo need competition to challenge their pricing, performance and customer service.

    Karoo's previous attempts at TV over broadband (KIT) died a death, caused largely by their poor infrastructure at the time, but prioritisation of that traffic might have made all the difference to people watching TV but killed the through-put of everyone else.

    How long before my broadband traffic sits in the overcrowded second class queue in a BT router while someone's East-ender's packet surges past in the fast lane, even though I'm not a BT customer and just want something from a website via their part of the network? How long, well it's probably already happening.

    We need Ofcom to actually defend consumers against the companies and either enforce real competition or act as though competition was there and drive the market. Net neutrality should be at the front of Ofcom's queue.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ambivalent - is a better description for net neutrality. The net 'should' neither care about the start or end of a transmission nor the protocol being used. However the mechanism for prioritising exists. They whole basis of QoS (Quality of Service) is based upon giving priority to certain protocols (originally those requiring a continuous stream such as VoIP and Video) but the mechanism could be used for anything. The fact is that the Internet's 'pipes' are very narrow and can and do become saturated (unlike over the airwaves broadcasting - which is intrinsically a far better way to send out TV.)

    The net has never been truly ambivalent to connections and protocols (or indeed ports all 65000 of em) and it never will be. There is a lot of slightly informed tripe written about connection speeds (the 20Mbit game) when in fact the resulting impression of a download is not nowadays really dependent on this much at all (above 2Mbit) it is the network congestion and the capacity of the server to simultaneously handle multiple connection that matters far more.

    My local server handles hundreds or thousands of simultaneous web browsing connections or local email SMTP/POP3/IMAP connections, but only tens of large high speed FTP transfers - providing that the back-up server has not saturated my gigbit local network when doing its stuff (it can!)- so I throttle back-up time slices when users are likely to be browsing the web site (nice having a proper operating system!) Expand this a few thousand times and you have the BBC on a bad night when the whole thing slows to a crawl! (OK they don't try to do back-ups at the same time - I hope!)

    In the end we should aim to use the appropriate technology - broadcasting TV should not be an internet based activity! End users can far more efficiently receive live broadcast over the radio waves as the do it simultaneously the systems cares not one hoot if there are two HD viewers of a million - whereas the web would stop! The sellers of Web TV systems essentially lie by compressing the signal to the point that it is nowhere like HD. (a bit like Sky/Virgin/FreeviewHD but more so.)

    Try a high-end HD camcorder and see how much better the picture is in 1920x1080 (at 24Mbit or even 17Mbit) than any of the broadcast HD services and you will begin to understand what is being sacrificed / that we are being conned by the broadcasters. Now try HD internet TV..... [It would be a good idea to make sure your eyes are in good condition too!]

  • Comment number 9.

    @7 - I feel for you mate. It is ironic that the telecom firm that made the first break from BT and were hailed as the new way forward at the time has now become the monster it escaped from! I know a few people in the Hull area who are fed up with Karoo and their monopoly - I am surprised that they are allowed to get away with it.

    As for the article - it's a non story really. Until BT start throttling back the bandwidth of the whole infrastructure to prioritise their own traffic, they are not doing anything wrong. Virgin do the same, as do Sky.

  • Comment number 10.

    BT should tell you that if someone is watching BT Vision then the rest of the household will not be able to use broadband at the same time (unless you live at the exchange) because Vision uses up all the capacity on the line. I wasn't told this before I tried Vision and then had to go through lots of hassle to cancel the service.

    Vision really is quite useless and it isn't surprising it has been such a flop. Things are much better now I've got cable - and i'm getting my promised broadband speed rather than some fictitious number.

  • Comment number 11.

    Not that much of a story, really. I'd be interested to see how much BT invests in the network in comparison to other providers. I appreciate that they pay BT for their services too, but totally understand BT needing to protect its own core business first.

  • Comment number 12.

    @John_from_Hendon you make a number of mistakes in comparing wireless broadcast and Internet TV. The internet supports a technology called multicast which allows a number of viewers watching the same IP TV channel to use the same bandwidth, so 50 users watching a 2Mbps stream do not consume 100Mbps. Secondly the bandwidth available on fibre backbones allow thousands of channels, far more than can be sent over wireless, this is why Virgin (fibre optic + broadband) and SKY (satellite) have so many more channels than Freeview. Finally all HD transfers are compressed, including those on Blue-Ray HD players and recordings on HD camcorders. Anyone watching BBC-HD can see it's an order of magnitude better than the standard transmission.

  • Comment number 13.


    I also picked that up one while watching Click over the weekend. It's certainly one for the regulator and the rest of the industry to look at very closely.

  • Comment number 14.

    I guess it depends on what Jon Hurry was referring to when he said what he did. If he was referring to prioritising BT video traffic over other traffic belonging to BT, then that's ok. However, if that prioritisation affects competitors' video traffic, then there's an issue.

  • Comment number 15.

    The whole net-neutrality argument seems counter to the principals of free and open trade. What it is saying is that it's OK to charge for access to the network, it's OK to set data caps, but it's not OK to make money by charging for specific traffic or bandwidth. Most people understand that it's OK to use QOS (Quality of Service) to ensure that services like VOIP and SKYPE work, why is it wrong to do the same for video. What we need surely is openness and transparency -every provider and every user should be able to obtain similar services on similar terms. However if we don't allow differentiated value-added services to be created we are not enhancing the internet -we are making it worse.

  • Comment number 16.

    #15. Paul Milligan wrote:

    "However if we don't allow differentiated value-added services to be created we are not enhancing the internet -we are making it worse."

    Should the test not be: does the QoS implementation impact on the overall existing user experience in a negative way?

  • Comment number 17.

    I’d like to comment on the business of television being ‘sent down’ our broadband services. You see I don’t have Sky (I gave that up before the days they were digital) and the things I like, want to see Sky has little off and a lot of rubbish I would not watch thus the subscription is (to me) a waste.

    So I pay my T.V licence and get my Freeview instead. And soon I will get Free Sat. Recently though my set top box stopped working and I turned to use iPlayer ‘as my TV’ watching it live or paying catch-up, then I used iTV Player, and 4OD too and soon was aware I was now consuming much of my television not via the airwaves but down my broadband.

    And you know what – I never had an issue, no buffering and waiting and indeed while I was watching 4OD in the front room, my partner was watching in HD Sherlock on iPlayer upstairs. I use O2 as my Broadband supplier.

    I was talking about this to a friend who lives 6 doors down from me. He uses BT Broadband. He has the fancy ‘home hub’ and BT Vision too, only he suffers several different problems. If he tried to do as I did and watch two streams of content like iPlayer, things begin to slow down alarmingly. If he is watching BT Vision and then attempts to download anything large, or watch anything whilst Vision keeps going, everything else falls down.

    He pays more than me for this wonderful service.

    But you know from seeing that many of my neighbours do not change their router SSID names, you can see most of my street is with either BT or Talk Talk. One seems to be with Orange and a few with Virgin. I’m the only one it seems with O2. And maybe that is the bigger reason. The fewer people use a service, the less that service is put under strain and needs to be shared about and thus slowed down. I am not in the know technically, but if it is 7pm and 8 households in one street using the same ISP are all using the internet surely that will be worse than one person using one ISP in said same street?

    So perhaps what one has to do is go for the ISP that has the least number of users in your area. Sadly those in Hull cannot do this.

  • Comment number 18.

    A few things that you need to appriciate before you accuse BT of breaking some kind of 'net neutrality code'. The QoS service that is used to deliver the video is there not just to prioritise in the core of the network but to also ensure that web browsing etc won't affect your video delivery over your own connection.

    The BT home hub is set up for this QoS service. I have no doubt that BT would provide this service to other ISPs if they paid for it and had the right technology in their network. Virgin for example would have a hard time providing QoS services as their broadband networks are not MPLS based.

    Net neutrality is a nice pipe dream, but to those who understand how wholesale networks work, it is unworkable if you want to provide time critical services like online gaming and video. Sites like Youtube and iplayer may work ok for now, but most ISPs have to 'cheat' to ensure they work properly (by copying and redirecting the content for example).

  • Comment number 19.

    Last time I looked, BT was a private company, not a monopoly and heavily regulated by OFCOM. If anyone is seriously suggesting that BT are giving themselves a competitive advantage over the shared network, then the complaint should be addressed to OFCOM, because there are strict rules about anti-competitive practices that could result in BT losing its license.

    However, what is more likely is that people who do not really understand the technology choose to complain about the network - and what we need is a high-speed network. The cable companies delivered one in their restricted areas because they have a monopoly on its usage. If we expect BT to pay for a public fibre network but gain no advantage from it, then I think we'll wait a long time!

  • Comment number 20.

    #8 John_from_Hendon

    "In the end we should aim to use the appropriate technology - broadcasting TV should not be an internet based activity!"

    While I appreciate that TV is better served over the air/satellite/cable, I don't quite agree with your view here. If anything, you're cannot stop internet TV now; it's here to stay. There are compelling reasons for content providers to use internet TV, one of which is cost. The VOD provided by the BBC's iPlayer and Youtube would be very costly to implement using other means.

    As you have rightly said, the internet was not meant to carry video or indeed voice traffic, so we have to perform some other traffic engineering to make that possible, e.g QoS. Technology is only going to get better at achieving that in my view, because IP is the way forward in terms of versatility and cost.

    Onto the general issue of net-neutrality, I think it's got to be seen in context. It's a huge beast which can be described differently by different people. In my view, and in addition to what I've said above regarding BT, it is imperative that you have to prioritise certain classes of traffic e.g voice and video, if the internet is going to work with what we throw at it. However, classifying traffic on the basis of who it belongs to is a whole separate matter, which to me needs to be debated.

    We certainly need clarity from BT over what their man implied when he spoke to Click.

  • Comment number 21.

    To me BT (and the google proposal) have it right, so long as the end-user is told they are getting 2Mb/s "Internet" then the ISP is absolutely free to deliver their own or "partner content" above that speed so long as the advertised 2Mb/s is not interfered with or slowed down.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well done for picking this up and running with it.

    Despite the 'competion' between ISPs the vast majority use BT infrastructure so BT has a hand on both sides of this debate as infrastructure provider and 'competitor' and needs to ensure that it is seen to honour all its commercial agreements equally and that all terms are available on commercial pricing to all participants, there's a suggestion here that may not be the case.

    Traffic shaping is appropriate for an ISP but BT has an ability to 'cross-ISP' traffic shape which is the question at the heart of this. Should BT be able to use its largely monopoly infrastructure to advantage its ISP and one particular product - BT vision - to commercial advantage?

    I like the reciprocity test - what would be the view if Sky owned the infrastructure and had said something similar? What would BT say then? If they would take the view it was above board then that's fine - if not...

  • Comment number 23.

    To be fair though, BT are not the only ISP in the UK doing so.

    Eclipse Internet (Now part of KCOM) allow their customers to chose whether or not certain protocols should carry a higher priority with their service using Traffic Controller and with their older plans, lower paying customer didn't get as faster Internet as the higher paying customers.

    I agree that BT has done wrong definitely, but I don't think they are alone in what they are doing

  • Comment number 24.

    As many commenters have pointed out, the question boils down to "what does BT mean by QoS?" It's a common misapprehension to think of "the internet" as some huge undifferentiated network. In fact, both the core backbone and the DSLAMs sitting in exchanges *rely* on QoS to deliver an appropriate end-user experience (it's written into the ATM standards). There is no "network neutrality" between, say, email and VOIP and video; there are merely three different classes of service.

    Now, if I, as an ISP, were to prioritise my own video streams ahead of others that I just happen to carry because I'm an ISP, then that would be a violation of "net neutrality." But that's not the same thing as QoS at all.

    As it happens, I don't care either way about net neutrality, which I think is a vastly over-hyped desideratum. However, this article doesn't convince me that BT are proposing to violate it in any way whatsoever.

  • Comment number 25.

    C Clarke #22.

    "..BT has a hand on both sides of this debate as infrastructure provider and 'competitor'.."

    good point this. raises the question: should essential infrastructure be owned by private interests?

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm more disappointed I can't get the speed I pay for before they cut it down some more.

    I don't really care anymore, since those with power and money will look to keep it at any means possible.

    If you don't have those, you can't challenge them.

  • Comment number 27.

    The simple answer then is either take away the infrastructure from private ownership by any one ISP, or prevent the owner of the infrastructure from being an ISP. That way, the owner (in this case, BT) cannot give priority to its own customers, which is anti-competitive, and should be looked into.

    Oh, and how refreshing: not one whinge about Apple LOL.

  • Comment number 28.

    Look, I'm quite serious about that. QoS is part of the backbone, all the way up to the exchange.

    I've just re-read the article, and so I'll repeat John Hurry's quote:

    "[A]t the moment with our TV service, BT Vision, we deliver entertainment content, video, at peak time to consumers via our network and we prioritise the traffic in order to be able to do this."

    I'm not a big fan of "Commercial Directors," and in fact I secretly suspect that BT is a doomed company (through sheer corporate inadequacy), but technically it's difficult to contradict this statement of intent.

    As a Commercial Director, he has of course left to one side the fact that BT (theoretically) prioritise similar traffic in exactly the same way: but that's just arguing about a grammatical sub-clause and the inferences therein. It has nothing to do with the obvious fact that you have to prioritise (or, in ATM terms, assign a QoS to) this traffic in the first place.

    Better journalistic investigation required, I feel.

  • Comment number 29.

    Gosh, BT engaged in dodgy behaviour with regard to internet access?

    Who'd have thought it? Hold the front page!

  • Comment number 30.

    BT provides the BT Vision service as an extra service, so the consumer is paying for the "Bus Lane". For the internet to advance into television services then traffic has to be managed more effectivly. I do think that if your paying for 5mb services then this is what you should get, but as the UK has an old phone network then this just isn't possible without major investment.

  • Comment number 31.

    For the last year I have received marketing calls from BT selling BT Vision. Within two weeks of each call my broadbands IP Profile had been reduced to less than 1 Mbps. Each time I complained and my IP Profle was restored to 2Mbps. No apology and tried to fob me off that it was because I had more than one computer and was connecting to my router by wireless. I didn't accept this as I'm a Network Engineer! How many people do they con?

  • Comment number 32.

    I can't say that I'm pleased. I'm one of those people that like "net neutrality": the idea that all bits should be treated equally on the internet. Anything except this neutrality has the potential to interfere with my choice of news or information; after all, I've not met one net-user who cheers slow speed. "Great, am I ever slow today!"
    I am pleased that there will be further consultation.
    Now here's the pay-off: Network owners hope to CHARGE people MORE money for providing priority traffic. So now what? We have tiered internet users - the poor & the slow vs. the rich & the fast. I mean does even knowledge & information come down to this social divide?
    Here I was thinking this was an American-sort of problem; here I was thinking that European telecom legislation presumed net neutrality.
    When "bandwidth hogs" (like BBC's iPlayer) take up excess capacity, leaving none for normal web users, it should be up to the bandwidth hog to solve the problem not the poor little normal user.
    Most internet service providers (ISPs) include provisions in their terms and conditions that users may not receive all the capacity they pay for. This provides ISPs "wriggle room" to manage congestion. Ofcom found that average broadband speeds in the UK were 4.1Mbps - about 1/2 the "up to 8Mbps" service most were paying for. So whose problem is that?
    Network operators that's who!
    Congestion on both fixed and mobile networks should be an incentive for network operators to provide tiered services based on quality of service criteria, and requiring service level agreements, but all and all: net neutrality should be the way of the future because it is "democratic".

  • Comment number 33.

    BT should have control of the infrastructure and nothing else. Or the Infrastructure should be sold back to the Govn and then it could tender out new fibre optic networks for individual comps such as BT, Virgin etc. Thats the only way for Fibre optic to every home in the UK will ever be achived. Well 99.95% of it anyways...
    This would then stop a 2 tiered system and guarantee net nutrality in some form anyway!

    I copyright this action....

  • Comment number 34.

    a net neutrality crime?

    Want to know another one?

    How about two BBC Tech "reporters" who constantly plug one or two commercial internet products at the expense of others, at the same time breaching the BBC charter?

    Off you pop Rory, and write a proper story, and not just copy and paste press releases.

  • Comment number 35.

    Apparently there is no legal basis or precedent for "net neutrality" in the UK or the EU. It's just a concept like the "precautionary principle" that has a few vocal advocates but is neither a law nor a fundamental truth.

    I suspect that "net neutrality" was originally about traffic flows on *the internet* rather than on a retail broadband connection. A BT user that signs up to a package of broadband with internet access and BT Vision VoD delivery is surely getting exactly what they paid for. BT are providing their customer with a service that doesn't impact *the internet* at all, as the VoD originates within BT retail's network and is passed over Wholesale connections to their consumers - no internet transit or peering points involved.

    Net neutrality is a flawed concept if it means one cannot prioritise real time data like voice over a store and forward technology like email delivery - you wouldn't notice an email being 300 ms late but you would not be happy with that delay in a telephone conversation.

  • Comment number 36.

    The interviews clearly say that BT Wholesale which is the near monopoly provider of the net infrastructure in the UK is prepared to sell prioritised services to retail ISP's. Competition (mostly 'unconfirmed' claims about speed and service) exisits at the retail level mostly bought from BT Wholesale.

    Of course BT Retail can also adjust levels of service between customers but claims it does not. Some ISP are of course purchasers from BT Retail.

    If you neighbour has a BT Vision Box... you better check you net speed on match days at the time when the match is on against the speed you get when the match is not on.

  • Comment number 37.

    A lot of comments here seem to assume that BT has a monopoly or near enough over the Core IP networks in the UK. This is simply not true, these services are provided by Virgin, ATDN, BT, C&W, Level3 to name just a few. None of these providers provide a single point of failure, they are all pretty much connected directly to each other.

    Most will provide QoS if the customer pays for it. QoS is commonly used for voice and data services (Banks, Call Centres etc), and is significantly more expensive than non-QoS services. Try looking up how much an 8mbit QoS line will set you back - your broadband line rental will look like a pittance in comparison! The QoS service over ATM that BT Vision uses is, as I understand it, a wholesale product than ANY ISP could use if they wanted to.

    Most complaints about broadband stem from the old problem - people paying almost nothing for their service want the world from it. £20 a month broadband is the Reliant Robin of internet services, if you want an F1 car you have to pay for it!

  • Comment number 38.

    Extreme irony overload there Rory. Are you aware that, uniquely among content providers, the BBC is an ISP? This means that the BBC website and things like iplayer get priority between ISPs as part of the peering arrangements which exist between all ISPs. The BBC has been bucking net neutrality since it first went online. What BT is doing is not right, but the BBC has been doing it for years.

  • Comment number 39.

    Isn't this all really a non-issue anyway? The traffic priority used by BT Retail to provide the Vision service can be used by any other ISP. They just need to ask BT Wholesale for it. At least that's what I am led to believe. They may have to also use the BT Central Plus product which currently only BT Retail use but again any ISP can get Central Plus, just need to ask and pay.

  • Comment number 40.

    This is simply wrong. Seems alot of people here don't understand the problem of net-neutrality and what's at stake. This is basically ISPs wanting to charge for speed at both ends of the pipeline. They want to sell their performance cake to users and keep it to sell it again to businesses.

    The Bus lane analogy is excellent as it's something that most people should understand. Simply put there is a limited bandwidth available. If ISPs are allowed to sell prioritised services to content providers then the extra bandwidth provided to those services reduces the bandwidth available to the rest and that is consequently slowed down.

    From a user perspective, we all pay ISPs for internet access at a certain speed. This SHOULD allow us equal access to any available service or web site we wish to view. But if you allow ISPs to sell priority to certain services/sites then it doesn't matter what connection speed you've paid for, if you are using services that don't pay for prioritised traffic then your access to those services will be of lower quality because of the extra bandwidth the ISP are providing to users of the prioritised services. Effectively the service that you are paying for from the ISP is downgraded because you're not choosing to use the prioritised services.

    From a business perspective it stifles innovationa and competition and makes it harder for new companies to enter the market. Established businesses can afford to pay for prioritised traffic and therefore have a competitive advantage over new growing companies that can't.

    Taking the case of Google as a perfect example: Google succeeded because they created an innovative new search engine that provided efficient high speed search that outperformed the competition. If the competition at the time had been paying for prioritised traffic then the performance of Google's engine would have been meaniningless. The only answer for Google would have been to pay for prioritisation themselves in order to show off the benefits of their innovative engine.

    Potentially we move towards a situation where it becomes essential for business success to pay for prioritisation and increased use of prioritisation reduces non prioritised traffic to the point where it becomes virtually unusable. The neutral internet that currently allows smaller start up companies the ability to compete with bigger established companies on a level playing field will be gone.

    We should push MPs for laws that strictly prohibit prioritisation of any traffic by the ISPs.

  • Comment number 41.

    Peacj wrote:

    "Most complaints about broadband stem from the old problem - people paying almost nothing for their service want the world from it. £20 a month broadband is the Reliant Robin of internet services, if you want an F1 car you have to pay for it!"

    This point actually raises an important problem that really needs facing in the UK. With the state of the infrstructure in the UK then prioritisation IS a real issue. It's impact would be reduced with improved infrastructure.

    I'm currently living in Japan. I pay around £20 a month for a 40M connection. I've had that speed for last 6 years! It's actually quite slow compared with what's on sale at the same price now 100M connections are commonplace. All across South East Asia the situation is similar. The speeds currently being touted in the government's "future" broadband plan are sadly comical.

    If the UK seriously wants to compete in an increasingly online world the pathetic proposals currently under discussion need to be drastically brought in line with reality.

  • Comment number 42.

    I would say that it is also the BBC that is helping destroy net neutrality.

    Releasing the latest iPhone app is helping move things away from the web into propriety apps.
    Methinks your software engineers are more interested in developing their skills than supporting web openness.

  • Comment number 43.

    "with consumers able to choose from a range of broadband suppliers,"

    You what? Maybe you need to visit the country some time Rory, I'm afraid BT still have a monopoly out here, and still take my money for a cr@p service and use it to subsidise their headline grabbing high-speed services in towns. You may be able to change ISP but your physical connection choice remains BT or nothing.

    Please stop giving BT propaganda free air time.

  • Comment number 44.

    @43. From the sudden locking of comments on this blog and another one, it seems that if you manage to dig through the self-serving management and give the BBC Trust a hardy shove, things suddenly get done.

    Just days after I escalated a complaint about similar plugging (of Social Networks) from upper management to the Trust, it was reined in and one "blog" seems to have been suspended - at least for now.

    It may be coincidence, but it may also be that a detailed and effacious complaint is taken seriously; not before time. The BBC (and its employees) need to learn that we pay for news not advertorial

    BT has a massive slice of extra-urban and rural service coverage and is bent on exploiting it - a good journo would have known and reported that.


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