No net neutrality in Blighty

While the US contemplates its navel over the issue of net-neutrality, the citizens of Blighty might be surprised to discover they lost it years ago.

Two of the UK’s biggest ISPs have ‘fessed up saying that they would give priority to certain internet apps or services when companies give them the dosh.

The confession, from BT and TalkTalk came at a Westminster eForum on net neutrality. The pair said that they would be happy to put selected apps into the fast lane.

TalkTalk’s Andrew Heaney said that if Google gave it money to provide more bandwidth to YouTube than the BBC’s iPlayer it would be “perfectly normal business practice to discriminate between them”.

“We would do a deal and look at YouTube and look at the BBC, and decide,” he added.

BT’s director of group industry policy, Simon Milner, said that he could see a situation when content or app providers may want to pay BT for quality of service.

Strangely no-one had asked.

What is scary for Blighty is that the ISPs’ stance is backed by regulator Ofcom, which has just completed a consultation on net neutrality.

Alex Blowers, international director of Ofcom sees “real economic benefit” for a two-sided market to emerge, especially for markets such as IPTV.

But he insisted ISPs must be transparent with customers about such arrangements.

TalkTalk’s Heaney said that net neutrality had disappeared a long time ago. Traffic management was commonplace among all the leading ISPs.

He said that it was a myth that the UK had net neutrality today. There are huge levels of discrimination over traffic type: “We prioritise voice traffic over our network. We shape peer-to-peer traffic and deprioritise it during the busy hour.”

Heaney argued that customers would define whether or not the blocking was too much as they would move to another service provider if they could not get their favourite site.