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Virgin Media Say Broadband Competition to Stave off UK Net Neutrality Battle

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 (7:47 am) - Score 609

The Executive Director of broadband at cable operator Virgin Media, Jon James, has suggested that the chances of a Net Neutrality (the principal of treating all internet traffic as equal) battle between access and content providers happening in the UK will remain remote so long as “intense competition” exists between ISPs.

The comments, which surfaced during James’s speech to the Future of Entertainment Summit 2012 and have been picked up by Recombu, echo the soft approach to regulation favoured by the European Commission (EC).

Last month the EC’s Vice President, Neelie Kroes, suggested that consumers should “vote with their feet” and switch ISP if they don’t like the service because the EC would not impose regulation that could “force each and every operator to provide full Internet” (summary of the new EC Net Neutrality proposals).

Jon James, Virgin’s Executive Director of Broadband, said:

There’s extremely intense competition in the UK so as long as we make sure the customers know what will and won’t happen, the level of competition will determine what can happen. There is traffic shaping on Virgin’s network to ensure quality of experience at peak times. Other ISPs operate traffic shaping, they but call it not investing in their networks, so you have a line that averages 6Mbits.”

Some ISPs, such as BT and TalkTalk, have long wanted to charge content providers (e.g. Facebook, Skype, iPlayer etc.) for the privilege of being allowed to send information over their related broadband networks (example).

However content providers already pay for their bandwidth and many could struggle to survive if they were suddenly forced to pay an Internet Tax. More than a few critics blame ISPs for the situation, many of which have kept their prices extremely low in the face of aggressive market competition. Crucially not all ISPs do this, which helps competition and keeps providers in check.

BT’s Commercial Director of TV, Alex Green, said at the same event, “All consumers should have access to all legal content and services on the internet, and in terms of capping and traffic management we are very open with our customers about where the limits are.” But Green also warned that “some types of traffic can have a disproportionate effect” and added that the best solution was to keep consumers informed about what they could and couldn’t do on a service.

Meanwhile the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) are attempting to have a new ITR rule introduced that could make it difficult for consumer groups and politicians to oppose the introduction of tougher restrictions by ISPs against content providers (here). This is likely to be debated on several separate occasions throughout the year.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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