More honesty required in net neutrality debate

Questions remain over culture minister Ed Vaizey's proposed deregulation of net neutrality, reports Chris Tarquini.

Since culture minister Ed Vaizey controversially backed the scrapping of what is dubbed ‘net neutrality‘ back in November of last year, the debate in mainstream political media over the issue has seemingly taken a back seat. However, there is one organisation that seems to be intently focused on keeping up the pressure to create a two-tier, free market based internet alternative, right-wing pressure group The TaxPayers’ Alliance.

The TPA itself has been an advocate for what it believes is much needed deregulation in the banking industry, publishing a briefing paper jointly with the Legatum Institute that claims:

“Regulation … played a significant role in driving the financial crisis … The increased internationalisation of financial regulation risks amplifying future global booms and busts.”

TPA blogger Dominique Lazanski has pursued net neutrality deregulation vigorously despite the issue falling down the political agenda over recent months, with numerous articles advocating the creation of a competition-based market for ISPs (internet service providers). Lazanski argues:

“Many net neutrality advocates also believe that accessing content, including streaming video, should be free. So how, then, are ISPs supposed to invest in the next generation of internet infrastructure?”

The flaw in the argument that Lazanski fails to mention is that ISPs are under no obligation to “invest in the next generation of internet infastructure”. The organisations who would profit financially from the deregulation of net neutrality laws would be just as able to pump the profits to their shareholders as to provide funding for future internet innovation and development.

As Jon Worth previously explained on Left Foot Forward, abandoning net neutrality could in future lead to an internet where popular public broadcasters like the BBC would not be able to pay for a premium service from ISPs, therefore ensuring video streaming software like BBC iPlayer could end up running at a virtually unusable speed.

In contrast private competitors like Sky could invest to ensure that their streaming service was of the highest quality; however, if ISPs find it difficult to provide a differential service, as Jon Worth points out:

“ISPs maybe want to ensure differentiation by outright blocking of competitor sites or services.”

While net neutrality is firmly on the agenda in America, over here there seems to be less focus on the issue. But for those who want to protect freedom of speech on the web, they could be about to face their biggest challenge of all.

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10 Responses to “More honesty required in net neutrality debate”

  1. Other TaxPayers Alli

    Must-read RT @leftfootfwd More honesty required in net neutrality debate: http://bit.ly/dTKuuV

  2. Bry

    RT @OtherTPA: Must-read RT @leftfootfwd More honesty required in net neutrality debate: http://bit.ly/dTKuuV

  3. StephenH

    RT @leftfootfwd: More honesty required in net neutrality debate http://bit.ly/fRYV08

  4. cim

    While net neutrality is firmly on the agenda in America, over here there seems to be less focus on the issue.

    That’s probably because in the US broadband internet access is generally restricted to local monopoly providers, and if they choose to give a bad or restricted service they can because there’s no alternative. Meanwhile, the UK has a decent amount of competition – and better anti-monopoly regulation – and so the risk of one ISP giving an intentionally bad service is less because consumers can switch relatively quickly (on the return on investment timescales ISPs have, switching in a year is quick, even if it won’t feel like that to the consumer), and “we don’t restrict access” can become an ISP’s selling point.

    I don’t generally have a lot of faith in free markets to solve everything, but this does seem to be one problem that goes away if a decent amount of competition is maintained and consumers’ rights are protected.

    Net neutrality is generally only talked about in a consumer ISP context. The rest of the web is already not neutral – you get the speed and capacity of network connection you’re willing to pay for, and no more. Instead of government-mandated (perhaps UN-mandated) uniform contracts, the risks are managed by formal Service Level Agreements. Increase consumer protection by requiring ISPs to give formal SLAs for speed, capacity, availability, and so on, and provided there’s some competition in the market, the need for net neutrality goes away.

  5. SteveTaff

    More honesty required in net neutrality debate http://bit.ly/dUMdNW -FREEDOM!

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