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.

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: //bit.ly/dTKuuV

  2. Bry

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

  3. StephenH

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

  6. scandalousbill

    Cim,

    You state:

    “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.”

    First point to be made is that not all ISP have the capability to influence bandspeed or capacity.

    The basic question, IMHO, is that should the provider of your bandwidth connection be enabled by legislation to influence your choice of services running over that connection through bandwidth constriction or premium charging? I say no. This issue will come further into the foreground should the BskyB acquisition go through.

  7. Matthew Sinclair

    Dominique Lazanski has posted a response to this blog here:
    //www.taxpayersalliance.com/campaign/2011/01/response-left-foot-net-neutrality-iplayer.html

    Best,
    Matt Sinclair

  8. Phillip Clarke

    I’m afraid if we’re talking about more honesty in the debate, this piece is not a valid contribution.

    The author quotes a fellow blogger who says that “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.”

    The author should really find out who the first customer of BT wholesale’s Content Connect product is. He would quickly find out that it is in fact the BBC, who are pushing the technology as part of the publicly funded YouView platform – formerly Project Canvas.

    Ironically it is the BBC – not free marketeers at whom the author jabs fingers – who are creating a two tier internet through the development of YouView as it is the only way that the crumbling BT copper network is able to cope with the vast amount of data that YouView will generate on BT’s network.

    It is small scale providers such as local TV channels – whom the BBC and other PSBs claim will be able to gain access to the publicly funded YouView platform at low cost – who face having to either pay companies like BT to carry it’s traffic, or risk transmission of traffic of data on the open internet, which will be squeezed due to bandwidth taken up by Content Connect.

    The BBC and other PSBs are not the losers from this, it is anyone who dares to challenge their establishment position.

    Best,

    Phillip

  9. Mr. Sensible

    “Regulation … played a significant role in driving the financial crisis …”

    Here we go again…

    I fully agree with you Chris.

  10. Mili

    The "Tax Payers' Alliance" wades into the new neutrality debate. //bit.ly/fhyA4h

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