Net Neutrality – Important or not?

Should Internet Service Providers be able to decide on your behalf what content is more valuable? For instance, if I decide to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who on the BBC iPlayer, and later decide to watch the highlights of Formula 1 from the ITV website, should my ISP be able to decide that one company will get a faster connection to me than another?

Net Neutrality is (in part) the concept that the Internet is just there to provide infrastructure. Whatever information I request should be delivered to me at the fastest speed possible regardless of content or point of origin [see Wikipedia for a fuller discussion of Net Neutrality]. But some ISPs would rather operate a system where content providers can pay to have their content delivered more quickly than others.

Take this story, for instance, where the CEO of Virgin Media openly states that they are in negotiations to provide a fast-track for providers that pay them for the privilege. Other ISPs, of course, throttle bandwidth based on what you’re doing – some slow down bittorrent connections, some slow down video or audio streaming – but never before has an ISP openly said they’re willing to take payment from companies who want to get information through to Virgin’s customers quickly.

The thing is, does this matter? I’m not too happy about it (being a Virgin Media customer) to have my ISP deciding which of my requests are high priority and which are low priority, but is this just the way the Internet has to go? Will we notice any real difference? Or will we just get used to it and eventually accept it as normal?

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. I am a supporter of net neutrality from what I know of it as I oppose any situation that could create a two tiered www (I would internet but really there is already one, as not everyone has a backbone connection to Internet2 :)). I really do think that net neutrality is a key issue (along with how we deal with copyright etc)

    As a user of Virgin’s broadband I am all too aware of their throttling of speeds for heavy users, this news is not something that makes me want to stay with them if I can find another service provider who has no download caps (I know Virgin technically does but it feels less inhabiting than others do).

  2. Thanks very much for the comments guys. I’ve heard good things about Be (http://www.bethere.co.uk) , but I’m currently still tied into my VM contract.

    Here’s my rather simplistic take on it:

    I pay VM a monthly fee to be able to download data at 2Mbit… OK, it’s not a guaranteed speed, but the idea is that I should get the best speed possible within that upper limit. Whatever data I request, whether it’s from VMs own homepage, the BBC iPlayer, or some other source, that data should be delivered to me as quickly as possible because I paid for that privilege.

    So, really VM will need to change their advertising: “£xx for 2Mbit broadband access to our partners’ sites… Download speed from non-partner sites will be lower than 2Mbit”.

    Doesn’t sounds like such a good deal any more, does it?

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  1. […] thinking about that, it looks like Net Neutrality is already under threat in the UK. There was the story about Virgin Media a while ago, which we haven’t really heard much else about except that Virgin see it as […]