British fixed line incumbent BT has dismissed criticism that its ‘Content Connect’ service, which will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) using its network to charge content firms for the high speed delivery of video, the BBC reports. Critics have claimed that the introduction of the service, which is due to be made available within the next few months, could spell the end of net neutrality (the principle of treating all internet traffic as equal), while it could also impact competition for consumers. The service is based on a new content distribution network built by BT that stores video content closer to the user, reducing congestion on the network and speeding up load times. BT Retail will begin to use the service to deliver BBC iPlayer content on its BT Vision TV service within the next few months.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), has argued against the introduction of the service, claiming: ‘This is a sea change in the way that content is delivered by ISPs … It is essentially them saying: ‘Rather than delivering whatever content is on the internet as best we can, here are our services that we will deliver through our own network.’’ A spokesperson for BT refuted claims that Content Connect would create a ‘two-tier internet’ however, stating: ‘BT supports the concept of net neutrality, but believes that service providers should also be free to strike commercial deals, should content owners want a higher quality or assured service delivery.’ The spokesperson also stated that BT would not throttle or discriminate against other video services on the network, but did not rule out that ISPs using the network could do so, but it has claimed that the introduction of the new service would boost download speeds across its entire infrastructure, not just for those buying into Content Connect, due to reduced network congestion.
The UK telecoms regulator Ofcom, meanwhile, is expected to clarify its stance on net neutrality later this year, but in the meantime, the UK government has already said that it backs a two-speed internet, with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey having said in November 2010 that ISPs had to be free to experiment with new charges to help pay for the expansion in internet services and infrastructure.