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BCS – UK must join net neutrality debate

The president of the British Computer Society (BCS), Professor Nigel Shadbolt, has called on the UK to join the growing debate surrounding net (Internet) neutrality.

To date most have considered net neutrality to be a U.S. problem, which the BCS believes to be a serious mistake:

The term "Net neutrality" refers, in its most extreme sense, to the idea that all bits are created equal and that Internet traffic should under no circumstances be tiered in any way. Opponents of Net neutrality argue that certain types of traffic are already necessarily prioritized over other types--voice over Internet Protocol, or voIP, is a frequently used example--and that to mandate Net neutrality would limit both that functionality and the ability of Internet service providers to charge different rates for different connection speeds.

Because Internet users in the U.S. tend to have a smaller range of ISPs to choose from than do users in the U.K., the consensus in the U.K. has been that Net neutrality is a U.S.-centric debate.

"We might feel that we're happy with the degree of market force and flexibility in the U.K., but...what is clear is that some of the major content providers originate out of the U.S., and if things actually became tiered in any sense we would feel the impact in the U.K. and the EU," said Shadbolt. "When there are proposals floating around before Congress or whatever, whatever your view, it is required to examine the issues. It is a complex field."

ZDNet's summary offers some interesting insight into an often ignored debate over this side of the pond. Many UK ISP's restrict traffic to specific services as a way of limiting congestion and maintaining performance.

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