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Virgin Media Re-Opens Net Neutrality Debate with New Plans

Posted: 16th Dec, 2008 By: MarkJ
Virgin Media looks set to give net neutrality, the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, a run for its money in mid-2009 when they revamp their broadband policies to potentially restrict specific applications like Bittorrent (P2P).

The operator hinted at such a move yesterday when it suggested that broadcasters might be asked to pay to have their content delivered across is fibre-optic network. BT is understood to have similar plans for their recently announced 'Project Canvas' IPTV service and Tiscali is often seen to express support for such an idea.

Virgin Media's CEO, Neil Berkett, is reported to have confirmed its ambitions with The Register in which he claimed the situation to be a matter of "fairness". However a statement issued in response to further queries was less specific:

Virgin Media's statement to The Register: "Broadband has become integral to delivering home entertainment services and with data consumption growing rapidly, we are exploring new ways to enhance our product offering. Part of this involves intelligent monitoring and understanding the way people use our broadband service."

Likewise it was also hinted that the cable operator’s new 50Mbps package, which launched yesterday without traffic management restrictions, might find new limits being imposed further down the line next year - once take-up had improved.

However Virgin Media could face heavy criticism if it did choose to adopt such a system, especially after rumours that it had plans to do so were strongly denied during the summer (original news):

Virgin Media's June 2008 Statement: "Virgin Media has an open and transparent traffic management policy listed at http://www.virginmedia.com/traffic .

Our policy does not discriminate internet traffic by application and we have no plans to do so. Whilst we do use equipment from Allot within parts of our cable network, this is used to build usage metrics and does not affect customers’ service in any way. It is certainly not used to do any form of packet shaping or change internet traffic priorities.
"

We suspect that anybody paying £51 per month for a 50Mbps broadband service would be less than pleased with the idea of seeing new restrictions imposed. After all, you don’t pay that much money for a service if all you intend to do is browse websites and read your e-mail.

These days P2P is heavily integrated into many legitimate games and video services. Customers would rightly expect their ISP to offer flexibility and fair access to all legal applications and uses, not just those deemed by the provider to be allowable.
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