back to article ignores 'net neutrality' campaigners

ISPs will be allowed to charge content providers to prioritise their traffic, the government indicated today. A speech by the communications minister Ed Vaizey confirmed that the concept of "net neutrality" remains irrelevant in the UK under the coalition. As long as providers are open about their policies, he said, the …


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  1. Tom Chiverton 1


    "ISPs should be allowed to manage their networks to ensure a good customer service"

    That's not the same as asking the BBC to pay them if they don't want iPlayer to stop working.

    And many users don't have a choice of ISP, because moving to a real ISP from (say) their cable/satellite bundle costs much much more.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      "And many users don't have a choice of ISP"


      "because moving to a real ISP from (say) their cable/satellite bundle costs much much more."

      So they don't have a choice... but they do. Only good service costs money. You want first class travel for the price of a cheap off-peak fare, but don't want to pay for it.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You know nothing

        I can only get cable where I am because all the phone lines are aluminium

        I can't get ADSL over 512k no matter what and I have tried.

        1. David 45

          Same here

          Same here, except my 80's-built estate (nothing special here) has some sort of weird covenant forbidding any further excavations (and outside TV aerials, to boot, despite lousy off-air signals), so when the ancient Rediffusion cable system that had been in the town since Noah was a boy (complete with vicious picture patterning!) was replaced with Telewest (as was), we didn't get cabled. The only other thing I was looking at was a firm called VFast

          that do a wireless system around Kent, UK and I am in the catchment area. Do away with the landline, use mobile phone only (hardly use it for calls, anyway) and the running costs are more-or-less the same.

          1. Charles Manning

            Sick of the victim culture!

            What kind of numptie moves into an estate with such stupid regulations?

            Rather than blame the ISPs perhaps you should blame the estate, or, more to the point, yourself!

            You have choices, be man enough to take responsibility for your life. Stop being a victim.

            1. Pandy06269

              That would only work if...

              ... you could live in the house for a week to test the speed of the broadband line.

              I can't see many landlords allowing that. A property is a huge investment; it's not always an option to ditch it and move just because the broadband isn't up to speed.

              That's like selling and buying a new car because the radio doesn't receive your favourite station while at work - something you'd only find out if you used it for a week before you bought it, but something that isn't a concern of the sales garage. Yes, you can replace the radio, but you'll get the same effect because the infrastructure isn't there.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    how long before

    business email is classed as "priority" that needs paying for?

    reminds me of how many GP's jumped on the 0870 you pay for their golf membership lines

    "your call is important to us, please hold for a further 20 mins at 14p per minute until we cut you off suddenly"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did anyone really think....

    That the conservatives would be better than Labour when it comes to protecting the consumer over business?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Filth, bloody tories will allow fatties to get fatter

    Its all about money!

    We'll all have to pay more, just watch and learn!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How could this work fairly?

    I realise it's only prioritisation through the ISP's network, anything outside of that is still unprioritised. (presumably it's cheaper than investing in network infrastructure!)

    The problem is, I decide what is high priority for me, not the company that has the most money! If I create a stunning open source alternative to Skype, that beats it hands down in every way, it's no good if all the calls keep getting dropped because Skype can pay to have it's traffic prioritised over my application's.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Open Source

      Great example, I hadn't thought about how open source systems would suffer under this.

      Future Microsoft Quote

      "Access to Windows update will now be faster for UK customers, because we are nice and paid your ISP to make it work faster for you."

      Small Print

      "Oh but if you use Ubuntu then forget about updates, they might time out, sorry..."

      --Pirate, because what the hell its bittorrent that will end up slower!

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Future Microsoft Quote

        "Access to Windows update will now be faster for UK customers, because we are nice and paid your ISP to make it work faster for you."

        Pointless if *I* have paid *my* ISP to prioritise all *my* packets, which is what the government are talking about here.

        I think that's the key to the whole net neutrality debate. If you are unable to imagine paying for QoS out of your own pocket, then you simply get the quality paid for by the other end of your conversation. For freetards on peer-to-peer networks, that's a terrifying prospect. For the rest of us, the option to pay a little extra and queue-jump aforesaid freetards is quite attractive.

        1. Intractable Potsherd

          There are going to be a lot of comments along these lines...

          ... so I would like to know what people like Ken Hagan use the internet for that makes their packets so much more important than a "freetard"'s. A good answer would, inter alia: comprehensively define what is a "freetard" and, equally, what constitutes a "good netizen" (or whatever word is preferred); why certain packets are more "worthy" than others; and then, based on the answers to the other parts of the question, explain why a two-tier internet is *objectively* justified.

          I bet I don't get any decent answers ...

        2. icetroggy

          @Ken Hagan

          >> Pointless if *I* have paid *my* ISP to prioritise all *my* packets, which is what the government are talking about here.

          No - that is exactly not what the government is talking about. Nobody is worried that you can buy a more expensive broadband package and get higher bandwidth.

          This is about *Microsoft* (or some other large company) paying your ISP to prioritise their traffic above other companies, so that I guess someone with the cheap broadband package would get higher data rate for windows updates than you with your expensive package would get with Ubuntu updates or whatever.

          Of course, the government's argument is that you could always change ISP in this case.

    2. david wilson


      >>"The problem is, I decide what is high priority for me, not the company that has the most money!"

      Well, you potentially decide what's a priority (or not) for your computer/network, and they decide what's a priority or not for theirs.

      I'm sure that if enough people actually noticed a difference, and wanted to pay more for a more 'neutral' service, someone would offer one, and most people would be able to choose it.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: How could this work fairly?

      I don't understand your scenario here. You develop an alternative to Skype. OK. Now, either your customers all connect to your server, in which case it is up to you to pay the premium for QoS, or your customers connect to each other, in which case it is up to them. In neither case does the traffic pass through a connection that Mr Skype is paying for, so I don't see how it matters how much money Skype have.

      Maybe you mean that Skype could pay ISPs to perform deep packet inspection and sabotage any packets carrying your protocol. In that case, I think you need to refer to the Phorm case, where the consensus was that such inspection was a criminal offence.

      At the risk of drawing an analogy, the Royal Mail and various courier companies carry stuff in exchange for cash. Presumably there's a risk that one company might pay (bribe) couriers to lose or refuse to carry packages from that company's rivals. However, I've never heard of that happening.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting move

    One way to cut p2p file sharing to 300 b/s.

  7. Asgard

    The MP's showing once more what they are like!

    “Under the light-touch plans “ … more like Under the light-torch paper (and stand well back) plans!

    These absolute bastards in power keep showing they don't give a damn what we think or what almost the whole planet wide Internet community thinks! ... So once again, they show they just want to force through their ideas on to us and we just have to bend over and keep taking it and they just don't want to know what we think!

    Proof if ever we needed it that the MP's we have over us are some of the biggest close minded arrogant bastards in the world. No other MP's in the world have yet to force a way to kill net neutrality.

    Oh and how do they monetize the data stream ... they use Deep Packet Inspection technology to spy on us to work out exactly what data they are carrying!

    To hell with them. (Disclaimer to the Police State, this "To hell with them" phrasing is a statement of anger, not a literal statement, you bunch of Police State building two faced, arrogant, corrupt, corporate loving, greedy, closed minded, bastards!).

    1. David 105


      It wouldn't surprise me if dropping net neutrality is the carrot to persuade ISP's to start policing their pipes under the digital economy bill. The biggest issue there (for the ISP's) was cost to the ISP, now they can effectively operate a toll service they'll be free to rake up the £££'s to pay for the snooping gear and the threatening letters, whilst at the same time throttling p2p to the slowest possible speed.

      That said, some ISP's have already landed in hot water over not delivering on their advertised speeds, if anyone doesn't get the speed advertised as a result of their traffic not being "priority" (i.e. paid a premium for) then I would suggest everyone takes their ISP to court en masse for false advertising.

      Welcome to the tory internet, super fast broadband for the "proper folk", super fast broadband throttled to 1998 speeds for the plebs, just to remind them of where their place is.

    2. david wilson


      >>"These absolute bastards in power keep showing they don't give a damn what we think or what almost the whole planet wide Internet community thinks!"

      What 'planet wide internet community' would that be?

      I'd have thought that the majority of net users either worldwide or in the UK haven't even heard of 'net neutrality', and of the ones that have heard, most don't care unless it impacts on them.

      After all, why *should* they care? - Many of the people who do care only care because they think it might slow down their filesharing, not out of any deep moral principles.

      Do people only count as part of the community if they agree with you?

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "continue to be ignored by those holding the regulatory levers"

    Not surprising, look how Phorm was buried and this isn't half as controversial.

  9. matt 115

    changing isp

    "As long as providers are open about their policies, he said, the competitive market means consumers can take their business elsewhere."

    Pretty sure I'm on a 12 month contract, so when their 'policies' change I'd have to cough up a cancellation fee

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge


      That would almost certainly entail a change of service, which would necessitate a change of contract and if you refused to agree to the new contract (or weren't notified of it, etc.), you wouldn't be able to be charged just for that (i.e. they are trying to renegotiate a contract that you signed into one that you didn't and thus are obligated to allow you to continue as before or take advantage of early termination clauses in their contract because they are literally moving the goalposts on you, but they wouldn't be able to get you under the "you didn't complete the contract" pre-12-month fee clauses because of that). Worst that happens is you have to find another ISP and write a couple of threatening letters back if they send you some.

      Don't accept that what they tell you is legally correct. If someone changes their service so that it is different to what you were promised and/or not suitable for your reasonable, stated intended use, then you can damn well get out of the contract just as easily as they can. It's hassle, yes, but then so is fighting a case that you weren't guilty of in the first place - doesn't mean you should just let it go and have them charge you for it.

      1. david wilson

        @Lee Dowling

        >>"That would almost certainly entail a change of service, which would necessitate a change of contract ..."

        Surely that's only the case if they have something in the contract about being packet-neutral, and their new behaviour breaches the contract.

        It doesn't seem likely that a smart company would have gone out of their way put a clause in a contract promising to do something unless they thought that more than the odd potential customer would be likely to

        a) look for and find such a clause


        b) care

        I'd wonder if the people who make the loudest noises about net neutrality are the kind of people the average ISP really wants as customers?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not quite

      The 12 month contract is on the terms you signed up for. If either party, you or the ISP, decides to make changes then that's a new contract. My last ISP used to write to me periodically about changes, buried in the T&Cs would be the right to cancel. Basically the customer had a right to reject those terms within 14 days of receipt of the new details and terminate the contract without penalty. One day I didn't like the changes so I excercised that right.

      It's part of consumer contract law the way it stands at the moment, but remember the coalition wants to change that too...

    3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Changing ISP

      I agree with what Lee and AC said, but:

      My parents have changed to teleworst for phone, 'net and TV. If teleworst suddenly decide to de-prioritise VOIP packets, then my Dad has a right to cancel, right? But then does he cancel the whole lot (it's a special package)? Does he get a refund for the installation charge? If it was Sky, would he get a refund on the cost of his dish?

      Then who does he go to? What if BT decide that they don't like the way that VOIP eats into revenue? What if the other ISPs take money from Skype and drop SIP VOIP? What choice does he have then?

      Also from what I've read, people who change ISP loose the net for anything upto a couple of weeks. Very customer friendly.

      1. Charles Manning

        Right to cancel

        "then my Dad has a right to cancel, right?"

        Depends on the wording of the contract. It could be argued that they were getting more than the contract offered them and the ISP is now paring back on their excessive services and are still providing service levels that meet the contractual obligations.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          At the end of the day...

          ... if the contract is written in a way that consumer is confident they understand yet the company who wrote the contract actually meant something different then the court 9 times out of 10 will favour the consumer, had 2 such successful cases in small claims court based on that principal.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How this works then

    Some ISPs already offer "low ping" _to their customers_ for an extra couple of quid each month, for those for whom that is important. It makes sense to me, for some people simply don't need that, and for others, a few quid is far less than they'd be willing to pay if the guarantees were hard enough.

    The thing is, of course, the customer pays and now certain content providers will also want to pay the ISP. Since you can only do that if you're big enough, that will pose a problem for start ups.

    Still and all, there is a vaguely comparable situation in supermarkets, where margins are razor thin and sales rely on cycling as much goods through the shelf-space as possible. Supermarkets basically sell prime shelf space to manufacturers to help boost their sales. Of course, as a consumer you still pay for each item individually. That's not the case for ISPs, where you typically pay a lump sum and even if you don't what you pay the ISP is not tied to your choice of website visit.

    This, then, is a bit of a problem. The least ofcom could do is ensure that changing plans or even ISPs is as easy as walking over to the next supermarket over. Or at least as close as changing ISPs is ever going to get. Because ofcom are there to ensure "enough" freedom of choice remains for "the consumer". Still and all, they have a bit of time left to come up with something sensible to ensure that.

    Perhaps they'll manage to side-step the hysteria between now and then. Perhaps not. We'll see. But the problem remains that the effects of prioritising on some content provider's behalf can be insidious even if the customer is "made aware" this happens.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Some ISPs already offer "low ping" _to their customers_ for an extra couple of quid each month, for those for whom that is important"

      What's the advantage of prioritizing ICMP traffic?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Pedant much

        You know he meant low latency but did not know much other than it gives a lower ping.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Oh, _I_ do. But I wasn't thinking of the technicalities.

          That's where the quotes come in. It's the term the primary audience of that service uses, and seeing how at least some of them also shell out for specialist network cards for prices reminiscent of what audiophools will plunk down for "special" ethernet cabling, I didn't see much reason to muck up the issue with mere technical correctness.

          If you want to talk technicalities, then try this on for size: The pro-and-con net-neutrality debaters usually forget or are not even aware that the problem underlying the kerfuffle triggered by way of some American ISPs doing some extremely ill-advised things to their customers' traffic _and lying about it_, that of the technical expression of "fairness", is fundamentally broken. Indeed it's so broken that certain peer-to-peer software manages to abuse the loopholes to the point of up to severely inconveniencing others. I think that fairness problem needs addressing worse than these games with new ways to charge various parties for something or other. That's what Briscoe is on about in his _Flow Rate Fairness: Dismantling a Religion_.

          It's probably worth another plug:

          Disclaimer: No relation whatsoever, I just find his argument convincing.

          So I wouldn't be surprised if ofcom is holding off the boat hoping for technical reason to emerge before they feel forced to step in and hand down some edict or other. Doesn't show much sign of that happening soonish, though.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't think anyone should be allowed to buy priority on the network. Make people pay for their bandwidth, sure, but don't give the wealthy an opportunity to make their services appear faster and more reliable than the competition.

    It would be like selling couriers a licence to break the speed limit (If you ignore the safety implications). What's to stop everyone buying one? Only one thing... money. In fact, the system depends on the poor not being able to afford one otherwise the rich would have no one to take advantage of.

    You might as well set up a scheme where people are allowed to piss through your letterbox if you have less money than them. It's cruel and mean spirited.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      not really

      It's more like putting bigger engines in the more expensive cars. Mr Rich Richly can overtake Ms Moderate because he has more horsepower and a higher top speed. In the grand scheme of things, only petrol-heads worry about this difference, by and large. I strongly suspect that the same will apply to ISPs: mine currently sells a 'traffic shaped' product where some packets are more equal than others, and a 'full speed' product where all get the same priority. You pay your money and take your choice.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge


      "It would be like selling couriers a licence to break the speed limit (If you ignore the safety implications)."

      Er, since speed limits are motivated purely by safety considerations, a better analogy might be "like allowing couriers to use vans if they were rich enough to buy them, rather than walking like the poor people do". The fact is, in nearly every other walk of life it is possible to buy a premium service if you can make enough cash to pay for it.

      Perhaps it would help your sense of fairness if we repackaged it as "being able to send low-priority traffic at a special reduced rate". There! How could anyone object to the idea of rewarding people who make sacrifices?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Speed Limits?

      Erm, except that breaking the speed limit endangers others - how exactly does this do that? If you don't want to give your business to an ISP that does this you're free to join another - or even set up your own.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    Like the Internet in the UK isn't bad enough, now ISPs are going to auction their available bandwidth and use the additional profits to further pad their exec's pockets while still avoiding improving their networks.

  13. Dante

    Dirty Tory Scum

    Well that's one way to kill innovation in the UK.

    Can't have any new competition for their big business mates can we.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      In theory this should improve competition, but in practice what it produces is the lowest common denominator. All ISPs will end up offering exactly the same service the only difference being the price so consumers won't have any choice over what service they get, they'll just get to choose between identikit ISPs.

      Remember the law regarding tied houses? The government decided to restrict the tied houses a brewery could have to improved competition. Sounded great in theory, but what happened was that the pubs that the breweries were sold off by the breweries were bought up by big companies who treated their tennant landlords in exactly the same way as the breweries had done before them in most cases charging the landlord even more rent because they weren't making as much out of the booze as the breweries had been. That was another Tory special. It looked like a great deal for the consumer if you didn't dig below the surface, but the devil was in the detail.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sort of

    "As long as providers are open about their policies, he said, the competitive market means consumers can take their business elsewhere."

    That's sort of true, but if a customer is with an ISP that piggybacks onto another ISPs infrastructure how do they know what traffic shaping is going on? Lets say your ISP provides your service via BT Central. You are not a BT customer but your traffic is going through BT's network before it hits your ISP. Your ISP has no control or even knowledge over what, if any, traffic shaping goes on between their BT Central link and your router. If your ISP don't know how can they inform you. If your ISP can't tell you how can you make an informed choice?

    1. david wilson


      >>"That's sort of true, but if a customer is with an ISP that piggybacks onto another ISPs infrastructure how do they know what traffic shaping is going on?"

      Though it may be an off-the-wall idea, I guess they could ask, if they think enough of their customers actually care about the answer.

      If they don't ask, or don't get told, or don't tell you, you can either decide not to care, or to make some assumptions about what's going on, or maybe to try and find out by some technical means.

      If you can't find any technical way of working out if your service *is* being interfered with, is it likely to be being *meaningfully* interfered with?

  15. Greg J Preece

    I wonder what would happen to...


    1. cannon
      Big Brother


      exactly what i though, will VPN's help us avoid the great firewall of UK & its censorship?

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


        How will you create a VPN between you and the server(s) you are accessing? And if you do create a VPN what's to stop the ISP giving it 500bps?

  16. Oh not another Moron

    Internet killer

    Are politicians just stupid or are they trying to get paided by big business again? Net neutrality is vital to trust in the internet. Without it the internet just becomes a captive audience..... You know like an airport lounge or motorway services. We all love to be trapped and squeezed by big business don't we (sarcasm) Put this idiot back in his playpen where he can't break anything!

    1. david wilson


      >>"Net neutrality is vital to trust in the internet. Without it the internet just becomes a captive audience..... You know like an airport lounge or motorway services."

      Unless legitimate traffic is actually being *blocked*, I don't see how trust is affected.

      The response time of my net connection already varies significantly depending on time of day, and what other people in the neighbourhood are doing, and that doesn't affect my 'trust in the internet'

      How would my ISP prioritising some packets over others actually have more of an effect on me than whether the teenager next door surfs for porn after school, or downloads the latest ripped DVD?

      If there was a motorway services with every possible food/news/coffee vendor having a stall there, but some had paid to be closer to the front door than others, I don't see that as being desperately unfair, unless I'm bone idle, or don't care what I consume.

      1. Vic


        > Unless legitimate traffic is actually being *blocked*, I don't see how trust is affected.

        The issue is that heavy-handed throttling becomes a de-facto block.

        If ISPs are permitted to throttle data from certain sources so heavily that the source is effectively unreachable, then a legitimate requirement to prioritise traffic according to urgency - i.e. putting voice packets ahead of bulk-download - becomes a method to prevent access to certain places. The former is acceptable - probably necessary. The latter is not.


        1. david wilson


          >>"If ISPs are permitted to throttle data from certain sources so heavily that the source is effectively unreachable, "

          I suppose a lot depends what people consider 'unreachable'.

          At one extreme, *some* people might see anything that even slightly slows down their filesharing as being some massive infringement of synthetic 'rights'

          There's certainly a point in not allowing company X to pay an ISP to throttle a competitor's website below the 'standard' service level, but surely competition law could be capable of dealing with that, or could be modified accordingly.

  17. Tom 13

    Wow, the Brit government is doing something right that we can't get done

    properly here in the States with respect to free enterprise. Somebody better send some firewood to Hell, I suspect they are having some problems down there.

  18. Pirate Peter

    and down the slippery slope we begin

    so how long before the current service level people have is classed as the premium level service costing £10/month extra? and the current contract get demoted due to a piece of small print in the contract to the same speed and service level of dial up?

    as to being able to move, since the phorm fiasco most ISP's now try and lock customers into 18 and 24 month contracts with big early release payments so they can't afford to change provider.

    so the clue to this will be all the big ISP's mounting a campaign for new customers or cold calling existing out of contract customers to get as many locked into long contracts as possible so they can't leave just before they bring this in

    what we need are these changes to be classed as "a material change" to contracts to allow customers the right to move regardless of contract, then what BT, VM, TT and sky squirm when customers vote with their feet

    mines the coat with the short term contract in it from zen or Be*

    1. crowley
      Big Brother

      Re: and down the slippery slope we begin

      Yep, because now individuality comes at a premium.

      This is cultural collectivism, an almost communist nightmare.

      - Fit in with the X-Factor loving herd, and your tastes will be catered to efficiently.

      - Let them tell you what to watch, download, buy, and you're a -good- consumer and will get great service.

      - Fall out the collectivists target market, and you can whistle, whilst still paying through the nose to subsidise the more obedient customers!

      A possible solution:

      - force ISP's to charge by the megabyte


      - ISP's deliver the data the consumer -wants-, targeting latency to increase turnover

      - Corporations can still pay ISPs to cache their data

      - Customers not conforming will still represent a business case for ISPs to develop generic internet infrastructure

      Any takers?

    2. david wilson

      @Pirate Peter

      >>"as to being able to move, since the phorm fiasco most ISP's now try and lock customers into 18 and 24 month contracts with big early release payments so they can't afford to change provider."

      Doesn't seem like there's been a huge change in the last couple of years, and many of the long contracts may well be parts of bundles.

      Not sure why even if there was an increase it would be anything to do with Phorm, since however shitty and/or illegal the business may have been, out of the total number of people online, there can't be too many people who heard about it and got bothered enough to remember.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    creative industries

    So next time a politician wants to take some kind of credit for the web based creative industries that we keep hearing are the saviour of small business in the UK is it fair to assume that some other politician is thinking "a successful small business, in the UK, we can't have that going on... wont someone think of the child".

    Liars, cheats and thieves.

  20. Arnie

    Looking less attractive everyday

    I think we're ( I'm ) close to the point where the internet just aint worth it. The wickie wickie wild wild west that was the internet is slowly being eroded by and the entertainment moguls. How long before that TOR connection flags us as terrorists/peados? Or SSL's having to be approved by Seems that the internet is the last bastion of free speach and they are trying their damnest to put a cork in that.

    Fuck em if they cant take a joke

    Mines the one with C.R.A.S.S. on the label

    1. Mme.Mynkoff


      My bet is that you won't be able to stay away for more than 24 hours.

      Being an anarchist, Arnie - why don't you start your own ISP? Seriously. There must be a few signups right here.

      Then we'll see how well you run a network.

      1. Arnie

        Don't cross the bridge while your under it eh?

        Sitting here running a domain with 3k users over three sites listening to conflict. wanna come over and see how well I'm running it?

    2. David 105


      "How long before that TOR connection flags us terrorists/peados?"

      Worse, it'll flag you as a copyright pirate, the internet's lowest form of scumbag parasite. After all, they fund all the terrorism in the world.

  21. Pypes

    Technical incompetence again

    Im sure the ISP's sold this to ministers in a nice abstracted fashion that somehow made it look like they were acting in the best interest of their customers. But surely even a technical dunce can see that the only alternative to "best effort across the board" is "slow down everything we aren't getting paid twice to transport" and adds another layer of excuses between poor performance for the end user and lack of investment in network infrastructure,

    "You can't stream HD because google is too cheap to pay for prioritized bandwidth, it's got absolutely nothing to do with chronic oversubscription"

    Is a society where the people tasked with making policy have some basic technical understanding of the areas for which they are responsible really a dream too far?

    1. Khoos

      Policymakers and knowledge...

      ""Is a society where the people tasked with making policy have some basic technical understanding of the areas for which they are responsible really a dream too far?""

      Yes. Next question?

    2. david wilson


      >>"But surely even a technical dunce can see that the only alternative to "best effort across the board" is "slow down everything we aren't getting paid twice to transport" "

      I'm always wary of people suggesting that there are only two alternatives, since it frequently signifies a lack of imagination.

      Just off the top of my head, I'd have thought that one pretty obvious alternative would be 'slow down the traffic that seems to be probable filesharing', since that would be likely in the main to annoy the customers who are actually trying to use an unlimited or high-cap service to the full, and who are hence generally paying rather less per MB than the average customer.

      If ISPs were all making huge amounts of money from running an oversubscribed service, wouldn't that leave room for someone to make slightly less money by running a less oversubscribed one, or one where different (or no) priorities were set?

  22. Jaap stoel

    An end to piracy?

    I guess it won't take long for organizations such as the MPAA and the RIAA to start bribing ISP's in to slowing or blocking pirated bittorrent and newsgroup traffic. Its probably a lot cheaper then actually finding and effectively charging the culprits.

    I hope holland won't follow in the same steps. Freetards forever.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    That's going to happen anyway

    And if you don't do the crime, you won't pay the fine.

    Freetard sites should be blocked, it puts the prices up for the rest of us, the law-abiding majority. Ie those of us who don't begrudge chucking a few quid at an artist we like, rather than leeching it for free and spending the cash on Manga Comics. Like the Tards.

  24. LinkOfHyrule

    A series of tubes

    The BBC is reporting on this story - I like the reference to pipes

    Thanks for trying to f***-up the interwebtubez, tory idiots. Why not make all unemployed people's internet connections unable to connect to anything other than job centre and loan shark websites while your at it!

  25. Curt Vile

    Haw haw

    "Improve competition" my backside. The only thing this'll improve is the bank balances of certain venal MPs (no names, no libel suit).

    Mine's the coat with the well-stuffed brown envelope in the pocket ;)

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon



      thanks for the new, and appropriate, word :)

      I shall endeavour to slip that into a conversation today with my fellow contractor scum ;)

  26. Peladon

    Net new-traility

    Dear subscriber

    As authorised by your loving government, we, your loving ISP, are implementing service management policies to improve your online experience. By identifying and categorising your patterns of use, we will be able to ensure your traffic is managed in a fashion most suitable to our^H^H^H your needs.

    In order to better serve our^H^H^H your needs, we have implemented deep packet inspection (bugger - tell them to delete that before maling) traffic analysis (damn - that won't work) improved message handling (that's it!) technology. As an added feature, this allows us to suitably categorise your traffic (bugger - not that) provide you the most appropriate service (yup - that one!) for your Internet use.


    Yours sincerely

    Your Loving ISP

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      To: My Loving ISP

      "In order to better serve our^H^H^H your needs, we have implemented deep packet inspection (bugger - tell them to delete that before maling) traffic analysis (damn - that won't work) improved message handling (that's it!) technology. As an added feature, this allows us to suitably categorise your traffic (bugger - not that) provide you the most appropriate service (yup - that one!) for your Internet use."

      I don't care what you call it. That's illegal under RIPA and nothing in today's announcement suggests changing that. As and when the government suggests that it should be legal for an ISP to examine my traffic before deciding whether to transmit it or not, I will join the outraged commenters on this thread. Until then, I have to say you are all getting worked up about a figment of your own imagination.

  27. Rupert Stubbs

    Yer what?

    You can't have it both ways, freetards.

    1. Pandy06269


      How, exactly, are people who pay good money for a decent connection, freetards?

      I would agree with you if people were given phone lines and broadband connections for FREE and then moaned that the service wasn't up to scratch.

      Everyone on a home broadband connection is on the net because they're paying for it.

  28. Red Bren

    Conflict of interest

    How much are VM* going to charge a content generator to prioritise** traffic if it undermines their PayTV business? Are they really going to let customers stream quality TV channels for a reasonable price instead of having to subscribe to over-priced bundles stuffed with a load of crud?

    * I don't mean to pick on VM, they just make a good example.

    ** prioritise == an offer you can't refuse. As in, "Would you like us to prioritise your traffic for a 'reasonable' fee? No? Oh well, you know how fragile these 1s and 0s are, it would be a real shame if your bits kept getting 'lost', wouldn't it?"

    <-- Man delivering horse's head icon.

  29. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Welcome to 21st Century democracy, internet style!

    Wonderful! So MS and Google can pay shedloads to keep the abominations that are XBoxLive and "SpewTube" running at full pelt, but the website offering key advice and information to abuse victims for example, has to lump it in the slow lane!

    1. david wilson

      @The Fuzzy Wotnot

      >>"...but the website offering key advice and information to abuse victims for example, has to lump it in the slow lane!"

      So this website has lots of HD content then?

      Do you have any idea how much (if at all) this site might be slowed down, and whether that assumed slowdown is actually going to prevent anyone using it?

      I'd have thought that if text-based websites were slowed down to the point of unusability, likely there'd be some kind of consumer backlash.

      But maybe it's better to wait and see what happens, rather than leap to conclusions.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon


        "But maybe it's better to wait and see what happens, rather than leap to conclusions."

        !GODWIN ALERT!

        Isn't that what Neville Chamberlain said?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I see a potential rise

    In one or two VPN's/proxy services that pay the neutrality fee to the ISP(s) that fetch their data neutrally.

  31. blackworx

    Paid Up

    Never mind ponying up for games and streaming video; I'd be happy to pay extra just to get an un-tampered-with/throttled/traffic-shaped service. Sadly the great unwashed go all drooly-mouth'd for bundles.

    Dear VM, instead of having to pay you for a TV/landline that I do not want, could I give you the same amount of money and just get a decent internet connection instead? No? Thought not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Decent connection?

      You can have the decent connection you want, but it won't be consumer broadband, it'll be a business product and you'll pay five to ten times more for it - that's the only way the ISPs can make money by providing you with that much throughput. We pay too little for broadband which is why ISPs struggle financially and everyone complains about what they perceive to be a poor product. The industry is in a race to the bottom...

      1. blackworx
        Paris Hilton

        Re: decent connection

        Well, dur, I'd never thought of that.

        You're assuming I want to kick the arse out of it. I don't. I just want decent speeds from a consumer broadband product no matter what I use it for, and am willing to pay for it. £40-odd a month is not, I think, an unreasonable price for such a thing. I wouldn't even care if there were strict downstream limits, as long as they were properly applied - i.e. not being sinbinned for hitting it hard over a single 24-hour period out of an entire month of light usage would be a good start.

    2. zaralockwood


      I agree, I don't give a tos about the crappy payperview box or cracking phone line that is so crap I can bearly hear anything, I 'd just like a decent web connection that doesn't disconnect every couple minutes, a monthy contract that is easy to get out of and less of the 40 quid a month for this heap of con, ta. sucker (your customer)

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if noone pays, won't that be the same as neutrality?

    So, all the ISPs hold out a cap to BBC, Google etc saying 'go on, give us some cash and we'll prioritise your traffic over those of your competitors who .. err, don't have the same content to serve now we come to think of it'.

    BBC etc say 'no, we're happy not paying you thanks all the same'.

    So in (a rather naive) theory we should then be back where we are now as no content provider will want to hand over money to every single ISP, so all traffic will continue to be equal. I can't see an ISP refusing to carry content for a provider, or they'd just lose their customers. Likewise, throttling traffic is a very different thing to not prioritising it. If they throttle all traffic because the providers haven't got out their wallet, the result is you don't get more than 1mbit out of an 8mbit line and they're back to square one in being accused of not delivering on their stated speeds.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is great news for shareholders.

    Startups will never be able to afford the fees for priority service, so it basically stops people competing with existing firms.

    What an excellent way of stopping innovation.

    I wonder how much this is costing Vaizey in analysis and transport costs, and who is providing some lobbying fees for him to do the analysis, and whether it's in a brown envelope or not.

  34. Jeff 11

    It'll only be a bad thing for the poor and stupid...

    ...who are locked into (by financial or contractual reasons) their crappy ISP. The rest of us will see new market segments develop which offer higher levels of service for regular traffic, just like we have ISPs with lower contention ratios, no traffic shaping, and no data caps, despite predictions to the contrary. I don't see any reason for history not to repeat itself, because there's always an opportunity for business where changing market conditions make a fat juicy gap.

    The big elephant in the net neutrality room - at least in the UK - is the divide between those of us forced to pay BT Whoselale twice as much to sit on their crappy copper network and the much lower cost of having broadband in an area with 21CN (or those lucky fuckers with FTTC).

    1. Pandy06269

      Don't count on it

      "(or those lucky fuckers with FTTC)"

      In that case I'm an extremely lucky f**ker as I had fibre to the home installed 9 days ago.

      Or so I thought. My average speed so far has been 7Mb - a whole 5Mb lower than my ADSL line was!

      If it's no different tomorrow (end of the 10 day settling down period) BT are getting a serious complaint - it should be up to 40Mb!

  35. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Been Thinking

    Been thinking about this and reading variations on the story on other websites and something hit me. Notice that one of the things that gets mentioned in a lot of stories on this today is iPlayer. Now this is what got me thinking, why mention iPlayer specifically and not, for example, YouTube. I'll bet more bandwidth is used every day in the UK by YouTube than by iPlayer. Well...

    Remember all the ISPs shouting about iPlayer taking up bandwidth? Most of the ISPs concerned were those who wanted to provide their own IPTV service. Without a doubt the most hypocritical of these was BT. BT provide BBC (and other channels') content as a watch again service on their BT Vision boxes, but the difference between BT Vision and iPlayer, 4OD, et al? BT charge. That's right, those of you who have never seen BT Vision may have missed this, but BT charge actual money to watch BBC reruns. You can see why they'd want iPlayer throttling can't you? Why would anybody pay for content they could get free elsewhere.

    Playing two or more competing providers off against each other to see who will pay most to have their content prioritized is one thing. Prioritizing your own content is another altogether.

    So I'm hoping there's going to be some regulation here. Starting with BT. There is absolutely no way that somebody offering a charged service should be allowed to throttle competing products, free or otherwise. We're not talking about netneutrality in that case, were talking about restricting competition. The problem is that I suspect this sort of thing goes against the "light touch" that the condems are talking about. They don't want to regulate, they want to save themselves the trouble and the cash. I suspect therefore what we are likely to see is this being fought out in court rather than being regulated, leaving the consumer in the middle of a big fight until the dust settles.

    To do it simply; either ISPs need to be seperated entirely from content providers, so BT Vision needs to be done away with and Sky need to have their ISP arm amputated; or net neutrality should be enforced. I actually think the former is the better solution, even if net neutrality is enforced I don't like the idea of an ISP being a content provider of any sort.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm not sure what you describe is anti-competitive. People have the choice to buy, or not, Sky or BT Broadband. I don't think prioritisation is the same as throttling anyway - and the BT Vision example is spurious as BT Vision isn't delivered over the Internet, it's a private network that just shares the last mile connection with your link to the ISP.

      ISPs will increasing look to provide content - because there's no money in providing just access. Broadband pricing is so low now that no-one new would be able to enter the market because no bank in their right mind would lend a startup a ton of money that can never be re-couped.

      I think iPlayer is about to become free on BT Vision in the near future - possibly as a result of BT and the BBC getting all cosy over Canvas...

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. Dick Emery
    Thumb Down


    The only way I can see around it is to use the same protocol as the one they plan to prioritize but you can bet your ass they will make those protocols heavily encrypted and hard to fake. Plus it will be pegged to your IPv6 address once that comes along and any other IP's outside of that end to end tunnel for your high bandwidth 'Youview' (Already agreed on by OFCOM) gets immediate demerit to the internet toilet.

  38. JohnG

    Currently, there is no net neutrality

    A lot of people here seem to be getting upset about the possibility that they won't have net neutrality, guaranteed by some legislation and then policed by some nosey government body. Has nobody realised that the terrible future with no net neutrality they described is actually the current situation? Are there any ISPs that do not stipulate their right to constrain any traffic that they deem to be excessive? How about business broadband customers who have a lower contention ratio than domestic customers? Some large corporate customers may require a maximum average latency to certain specified points - and they pay to have this in their SLA. The unfair Internet described is already here - but it still works, ISPs are not dropping VoIP or VPN connections and the end of the world has not yet arrived.

    1. Pandy06269

      ISP vs Consumer

      I think the point is that it's the ISPs making the decision and taking the money, not the consumer/business/whoever.

      For example: Medium Corporation Ltd pay £000s to Megabig ISP PLC for a 100Mb dedicated connection to the net.

      Megabig Corporation PLC then pays £000s to Megabig ISP PLC to prioritise its traffic over Little Company. Medium Corporation Ltd accesses a vital service provided by Little Company but although it's got a super-fast connection, Little Company's traffic is trumped by Megabig Corporation PLC's so its received at a much lower speed.

      It's no good for Medium Corporation Ltd to go elsewhere because Megabig Corporation PLC has paid £000s to other ISPs too.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "light-touch regulation"

    ah yes, that worked so well in the finance sector...

  40. Spanners Silver badge

    Double Dippers

    In Europe we are not very familiar with the US practice of charging someone to send an SMS message and charging someone else for receiving the *SAME* message.

    Now our ISPs can charge someone for providing content and charge us for receiving the same content.

    Does anyone else see the similarity?

    This will not make anything faster. It will make some slower though.

  41. wobbly1

    here on the south coast...

    We are unable to receive the digital BBC stations we contribute to ,other than via iplayer, without paying a further tithe to Rupert Murdoch. We aren't scheduled to get terrestrial digital coverage until the year after next. There is no cable/fibre option either, the market forces didn't force the cables or fibres down here. Allowing market forces to decide priorities in traffic or infrastructure will lead only to enrichment of the shareholders , not meeting public need. The laws for commerce in this country make the shareholders interest paramount. What happened to the idea of caching Iplayer files or other heavily used files at the ISP? If Sourceforge can manage localised caching...

  42. M Gale

    People are paying for their service already.

    Customers pay to get access to the Internet, providers pay to stick their servers in data centres. You get 10mbps, 100mbps or whatever rate the pipe to the next router is, to send and receive lots of 1s and 0s with, to any other Internet-connected machine. As far as I'm concerned, that should be the end of it.

    But hey, that's not quite enough money is it?

    1. Terry Barnes

      Not enough money?

      It's not enough money for the ISPs to make a profit, that's for sure. Broadband pricing is too low now.

  43. Atonnis

    Here's hoping...

    All we need is just *one* ISP that will stick with giving customers what they actually want - an internet connection with which to do what they want, when they want, at the speed that is being advertised and paid for...and we'll be golden.

    This approach smacks of what could be tantamount to a price-fixing scandal.

    I give Sky some kudos, as their service has generally been about doing what you want when you want, but their speeds have been steadily declining over the last few years, and I'm worried they're succumbing to the temptation to squeeze in lots more customers at slower rates. I'm likely cancelling them soon.

    1. Rakkor


      I wonder about this - Murdoch has been campaigning constantly about the BBC and it's dastardly "free for all" revenue model scuppering his plans at world domination of the internet news space - What's the betting that the whole of the BBC domain splutters to a halt for users of the Sky broadband package ? Super fast acess to the Times Paywall for all ?

      Mine's the one with a copy of Ariel in the pocket (not really)

  44. Anonymous Coward

    The web-author's angle

    What does The Register feel about this? One would assume El Reg will be penalised by bandwidth dedication to rival news services? Though I personally think all ISP's should refuse to accept QoS payments from the Daily Mail as a standard.

    I love everyone ranting about the end-user's point of view. I'm a web developer, and about 10 years ago I was running a fairly successful web-based game (like the point and click things you find on facebook and on those really annoying ad banners "OMGFREEBROWSERGAME!!!!" and such). It was fairly active with around 1000+ active users a month, but I wasn't generating any revenue from it and shut it all down as my day job left me with little time to work on it.

    Over the past 9 months I've been re-writing it all with the intentions of launching it again with a whole free/paid-for model, along with smartphone and desktop clients. With the 2-speed Internet, what damage will it do to hobbyists with successful sites and small developers?

    And what happens to sites like Wikipedia? Would they deliver at dial-up speeds as they would likely not pay the levy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What happens?

      As a site with little in the way of video or HD content I doubt readers of The Reg would notice a thing. Prioritisation is not the same as throttling - I guess the effect will be much the same as corporate users get when their comapny moves to an MPLS model with web, email, video and voice all over the same LAN. The traffic prioritisation means that voice continues to work in real-time, the effect elsewhere is barely noticeable, if at all. Sometimes there's a one second pause before a website loads due to high voice packet traffic, but it's no worse than a delay anywhere else in the network would cause.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slippery slope

    I am horrified by the prospect of the end of net neutrality. Imagine if these ideas existed outside the realm of the internet:

    Imagine if the Royal Mail was to offer a service where those who could afford to pay would be able to guarantee next-day delivery of consignments which would be prioritised over everybody else's mail. Imagine if train companies offered separate carriages for those passengers prepared to pay a premium fare. Or if rich people could buy bigger houses in better areas.

    The way the internet should work is that 5% of customers should be allowed to be responsible for 70% of the traffic and the rest of us should subsidise those people.

    1. david wilson

      @Slippery slope

      I take it you're prepared for the flood of downvotes from people who think whining loudly enough about synthetic 'principles' can make the truth go away.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't we already have this(ish)?

    OK, so maybe the pipes are the same size for all content providers at the moment, but the speed of your internet connection also depends on the hardware on the other end. If that's inadequate, you'll get a rotten service. It's the provider who has to pay for the servers that provide a good service.

    So this is just like moving the pipes into that part of the system that the provider has to pay for. It's a change, certainly, but is it really that big a change?

  47. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    Who wrote that article I read a while back on the subject of unlimited accounts? The gist of the article was that "unlimited" accounts were not financially viable in the long term and that before long users would need to pay by volume.

    That sounds a fairer service than the proposed model of content providers being expected to pay in order for their traffic not to be throttled.

    The market created by the proposed model would be very complex. Users would look for the cheapest service that allowed free rein to their preferred traffic. ISPs would realise they couldn't charge popular content providers too much, if they did they would lose users to ISPs who charged less. Then content providers would be looking to control their budget by paying the most to the ISPs with the most customers.

    The volume based model sounds better. You get what you want and you pay for what you get. If the invisible (to you) dealings between content providers and ISPs mean you are getting poor quality service on some content what do you do? Is it a case that the content provider is not paying enough to your ISP or is your ISPs service just shit or is the content provider shit.

    One company that won't like this though is Google. How much bandwidth does youtube chew up?

    1. david wilson

      @Grease Monkey

      >>"One company that won't like this though is Google. How much bandwidth does youtube chew up?"

      I guess it depends whether ISPs would actually deprioritise Youtube traffic below 'normal' as well as prioritising other traffic as a result of payments from providers (or just to offer a better service to customers with realtime needs who are prepared to pay).

      It's not as if Youtube is actually realitme - someone can always set a page loading and then play the downloaded file later, or play it offline.

      If it takes an extra few seconds to pull down "Cat falls off television part 57", does that actually matter?

      >>"The volume based model sounds better. You get what you want and you pay for what you get."

      And the ISP actually has an incentive to get you consuming more. If there was deprioritising of heavy traffic and it ends up with you using less, the ISP could end up out of pocket

  48. Anonymous Coward


    Surely no ISP in their right mind is going to charge content providers when most (ISP's) can't even deliver on their own products.

    What's really required is for the UK Government to grow some balls and invest in some world leading coms infrastructure and nip this impending cock-up in the bud.

  49. Arthur Dent


    It's amusing in a way to see how so many people rant about net neutrality without having a clue what it's about. It's already been said, but let's say it again: net neutrality is not about not capping bandwidth (as a scientist I deplore the use of the term "bandwidth" to mean what it's being used to mean here, but if I use the proper term most of the clueless will not understand me). It is about maintaining a "one size fits all" myth together with a ludicrous charging model linked to an outrageously unfair concept of "fair charging". Even the (true in the real world) idea that real-time interactive work has different latency requirements for its communications than does background bulk file sharing seems to be anathema to advocates of this spurious neutrality, as does the idea that people should be able to buy higher quality by paying for it. I strongly recommend Bob Briscoe's paper on fairness ( for one view of an alternative to so-called "neutrality", and Frank Kelly's numerous papers on related topics for a solid grounding in the science of shared networks (a list of his papers can be found at One particular paper, "Explicit Congestion Control: charging, fairness and admission management", written in collaboration with Gaurav Raina, is perhaps a good starting point in the net neutrality context: - and I hope that some of those who have commented above will take the trouble to educate themselves by looking at some of this scientific literature rather than the propaganda spewed out on this topic by the likes of Google and the BBC; but the tone of many of the comments suggests that this is a forlorn hope.

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