The end of the net as we know it
Broadcasters willing to pay will be put into the “fast lane”; those who don’t will be left to fight their way through the regular internet traffic jams. Whether or not you can watch a video, perhaps even one you’ve paid for, may no longer depend on the raw speed of your connection or the amount of network congestion, but whether the broadcaster has paid your ISP for a prioritised stream.
“We absolutely could see situations in which some content or application providers might want to pay BT for a quality of service above best efforts,” admitted BT’s Simon Milner at a recent Westminster eForum. “That is the kind of thing that we’d have to explain in our traffic management policies, and indeed we’d do so, and then if somebody decided, ‘well, actually I don’t want to have that kind of service’, they would be free to go elsewhere.”
We absolutely could see situations in which some content or application providers might want to pay BT for a quality of service above best efforts
It gets worse. Asked directly at the same forum whether TalkTalk would be willing to cut off access completely to BBC iPlayer in favour of YouTube if the latter was prepared to sign a big enough cheque, TalkTalk’s Andrew Heaney replied: “We’d do a deal, and we’d look at YouTube and we’d look at BBC and we should have freedom to sign whatever deal works.”
That’s the country’s two biggest ISPs – with more than eight million broadband households between them – openly admitting they’d either cut off or effectively cripple video streams from an internet
broadcaster if it wasn’t willing to hand over a wedge of cash.
Understandably, many of the leading broadcasters are fearful. “The founding principle of the internet is that everyone – from individuals to global companies – has equal access,” wrote the BBC’s director of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, in a recent blog post on net neutrality. “Since the beginning, the internet has been ‘neutral’, and everyone has been treated the same. But the emergence of fast and slow lanes allow broadband providers to effectively pick and choose what you see first and fastest.”
ITV also opposes broadband providers being allowed to shut out certain sites or services. “We strongly believe that traffic throttling shouldn’t be conducted on the basis of content provider; throttling access to content from a particular company or institution,” the broadcaster said in a recent submission to regulator Ofcom’s consultation on net neutrality.