BT, one of the largest telecoms companies in the UK, has pioneered a new service that critics are suggesting could reduce competition and create a two-tier internet over time.
The UK-based free comparison website Broadband Genie reports that that the telecoms giant will be allowing internet service providers to charge suppliers more for their high-quality content, such as HD video.
The demand for online video content, which consumes large amounts of bandwidth, as do streaming services provided by the likes of the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, is proving increasingly problematical for ISPs.
As a result, providers have been exploring other ways and means to improve pricing and structures while also keeping the customer happy. BT has therefore devised the Content Connect system, which will allow providers of video content and streaming services to pay more in order to make their products more resilient.
While the idea could mean seamless content delivery, without pauses or hiccups along the way, critics suggest that it could lead to content providers paying for preferential treatment of their content.
Broadband Genie reported Jim Hillock of the Open Rights Group, campaigners for net neutrality, as stating: “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.’”
BT of course denied that the service would open the door to a ‘two tier’ internet, with a spokesperson saying: “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 company also claims that the offering would improve download speeds for everyone by easing congestion across the whole network.
In the US, regulators have recently voted to uphold net neutrality, with rules to prevent fast-tracking of content. However, with communications Minister Ed Vaizey saying last month that the government favours a ‘lightly regulated’ internet and as such will not legislate net neutrality; there are no barriers to BT’s plans, whatever the consequences might be.