Net neutrality campaigners have got it wrong..

Ah, Net neutrality – the misguided idea that somehow every Internet user has the automatic right to the same speed for every type of data or content they’re using regardless of how little they pay.

This month the net neutrality campaigners were in uproar after Virgin Media’s CEO Neil Berkett called the idea of Net Neutrality B****cks.

Instantly campaign sites were springing up and you-tube was awash with panic stricken posters worried that the net and high bandwidth services and web sites that they loved would suffer a lingering demise..


A totally unfounded fear that campaigners have is that web hosting companies are going to go out of business – Web hosting companies are already paying for bandwidth, and their costs are just passed to their clients – It’s not their service that virgin is talking about throttling, this whole discussion is about the end users having their connection throttled based on what content they’re looking at. – So pay more for a premium service!

Time to cut to the chase:-  Internet access isn’t free, ISP’s pay for their bandwidth, and that cost must be passed to the consumer in order for the ISP to survive. In the UK most ISP’s are trying to readjust for the forthcoming 21st CN roll-outs, their infrastructure and pricing models have gone to pot, as more and more content rich services are being rolled out such as the BBC Iplayer in particular. Just because you’ve been able to have your cake and eat it in the past doesn’t mean that you can do that in the future. As service improves and bandwidth increases –  pricing structures have to change or the ISP goes out of business. Users need to understand the costs of the service their using and pay accordingly.

EG. Plusnet has a great pricing model – 4 tiered options which range from 1gb to 40gb of transfer per month with each tier giving faster bandwidth allocation to download services such as p2p and ftp at specific times. The more you pay the better your service. UK Internet users thinking they’ll just cancel their Virgin subscription and move to an unmetered connection at unlimited speed will be in for a wake up call.

You’re also going to see a lot more tiered pricing as ISP’s begin to differentiate between low cost and premium products. It’s advances in content filtering and bandwidth limiting that have helpedisp’s introduce these newer pricing structures – of course one of the main issues in the UK that’s helping to bring this to a head is the increase in massive amounts of streamed and downloaded content from media networks such as virgin, SKY, BBCiplayer, ITV which has meant that there is the potential that the majority of web users in the UK now have the potential to be heavy users. So how does anISP change it’s pricing model to accommodate this – Pretty much the same as they’ve been doing, introduce limited download speeds for lower paying customers at peak times. After all – a user now wanting to pay for fast speed must surely be happy to wait a bit longer for their download.

Water, electricity, and gas isn’t free – we all pay for how much we use. If I use  a little I don’t want to subsidise the cost of those users demanding more than I do. Just because water used to beunmetered doesn’t mean the water company cannot change their pricing model. (it didn’t when we switched to metered water connections in theUK – in fact we had a lowering of prices for low usage water users).

Of course now there is workable pricing model for ISP’s that can provide free Internet access to users, that’s where technology such as Phorm comes in – so allowing ISP injected advertising into web pages means that ISP’s now at least have a way to offer very low pricing models (or even free Internet access) for users that don’t mind their surfing habits being tracked. So therefore you get what you pay for. Do you want advert injections and throttled bandwidth on a free connection or do you want to pay for a quality service?

Today OFCOM decided the BBC shouldn’t contribute to UK network upgrade that the BBC shouldn’t need to contribute to the cost of upgrading the UK’s fibre network (ISP’s are blaming the BBC’s iplayer for its drain on their bandwidth). Instead advanced peering and caching between the ISP’s and BBC’s network looks like an intermediate solution. But work on the UK’s 21st century network is well underway – expect that to push up broadband speeds by 2011,and there’s the mobile telecoms companies pushing 4G andwimax and BT’s assessing it’s unused dark fibre network to look at the potential to use that to increase capacity.

The biggest improvement to network capacity come in fibre to the home – But it’s estimated that the upgrade to supply fibre to local exchange boxes will cost £15 Billion and 10 years not forgetting the roadworks needed.

As far as the data transfer side goes – the Kangaroo Project has the potential to put further pressure on the network UK ISP’s – it’s a join TV venture to create an access point and portal for all the major UK broadcasters. So short term the ISP has very little choice – throttle and tier their service offerings until the wholesale price goes down or the government (or BT) intervenes and subsidises nationwide infrastructure upgrades.

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One comment on “Net neutrality campaigners have got it wrong..
  1. Hermes says:

    Spot on – the wailers and moaners want their cake and to eat it too. If the BBC aren’t going to pay for increased traffic caused by the iPlayer who is? It’s not as if the ISPs are charities after all.

    In the end the consumer will directly fork out the cost if content deals for traffic prioritisation don’t pick up the slack, and much as the wailers would tell you the huge majority of consumers would quite happily have them subsidise their connection if the choice was an extra £5 per month on top of their broadband subscription.


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