Government rules out net neutrality regulation

Culture minister says Government will allow internet industry to self-regulate

Barry Collins
1 Feb 2011

A Government minister has ruled out legislation to protect the concept of net neutrality.

ISPs such as BT and TalkTalk have openly welcomed the prospect of giving commercial partners preferential bandwidth on their networks, effectively creating a two-tier internet.

However, when asked by Conservative MP Mike Weatherley "what steps he is taking to ensure that the internet market grows in a way that encourages free and fair access to the internet", Culture minister Ed Vaizey said the Government wasn't about to intervene.

"The Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that the internet remains the powerful innovative, competitive and open force for good that it has become since its inception," Vaizey replied in a written statement.

"The internet has brought huge economic and social benefits across the world, and that must continue.

"The internet has developed at an unbelievable pace and in directions which have proved almost impossible to predict. It does not seem wise to introduce legislation to dictate how the internet may or may not evolve," the minister added.

"It has done exceedingly well without our intervention up until now, so until it develops in a way which somehow hurts consumer interests or competition or impedes innovation, it is best if we allow the market to continue to self-regulate."

The minister pushed the onus onto the telecoms regulator to rein in any abuse by the ISPs. "Ofcom will closely monitor how the market develops and if it develops in an anti-competitive way, it has the appropriate powers to intervene," Vaizey stated.

Ofcom is currently finalising its position on traffic management by ISPs, but has previously stated that it sees no reason to intervene, and has even stated that it can "see real economic benefit for a two-sided market to emerge, especially for markets such as IPTV".

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