British ISPs are not shy about two-tier internet

While in the US, telcos are jolly cagey about talking about a two speed internet, even if they want it more than sex with the entire cast of a Vivid Entertainment movie, the UK is not so shy.

BT, Sky and Virgin Media have sat down and worked out an industry-wide “code of practice” on how they explain selling “two-speed internet” policies to punters.

The three are going to make their announcement, and probably show off some of their hard sell techniques at a ministerial summit on net neutrality chaired by Ed Vaizey.

The World Wide Web’s dad, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the web and a stong supporter of net neutrality will be there. We really hope that he is bringing a lot of rotten fruit to the summit because he will probably go through a lot of it.

Basically, the ISPs plan to publish how they want to manage internet traffic. Of course they will do so making comparisons with their rivals so that it does not appear too bad.

But they will make it clear that they will be throttling popular services such as the BBC’s iPlayer to maintain capacity for all customers on their network. So everyone can use the internet, but if you want to get the whole entertainment advantages of it, you will have to pay through the nose.

They believe that the BBC should be paying them to bring the iPlayer into your home. And you should pay them for… er, bringing the iPlayer into your home. In short, everyone pays twice and the Chairman of BT can buy himself an extra yacht. What could possibly be wrong with that?

BT, TalkTalk and others argue that ISPs should be free to strike deals for more efficient delivery. We think they mean the delivery of profit rather than traffic flows, but it was not clear.

Under the plans, described as a “voluntary code of conduct” by people at the meeting, ISPs will be compelled to publish a “scorecard” of how they speed up and slow down traffic and for which companies. But if they want to they can throttle whoever they like.

Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, publicly intervened in the net neutrality debate in January, saying an internet “fast lane” could undermine the corporation’s responsibility to deliver programming to the nation’s homes.