Britain Rejects Net Neutrality as Investment Barrier — for Next Generation Broadband Networks

February 4, 2009

The British Government flatly rejected imposing net neutrality in Britain because it is a barrier to investment and innovation in next generation networks, according to the recently released “Digital Britain” report, which lays out Britain”s digital strategy for the future.

  • The relevant net neutrality text is brief, clear and quoted in its entirety below: 

From Section 2.1 Next Generation Networks:

ACTION 2

Between now and the full Digital Britain Report, the Government will, while recognising existing investments in infrastructure, work with the main operators and others to remove barriers to the development of a wider wholesale market in access to ducts and other primary infrastructure.

Internet Service Providers can take action to manage the flow of data – the traffic – on their networks to retain levels of service to users or for other reasons. The concept of so-called ‘net neutrality’, requires those managing a network to refrain from taking action to manage traffic on that network. It also prevents giving to the delivery of any one service preference over the delivery of others. Net neutrality is sometimes cited by various parties in defence of internet freedom, innovation and consumer choice. The debate over possible legislation in pursuit of this goal has been stronger in the US than in the UK. Ofcom has in the past acknowledged the claims in the debate but have also acknowledged that ISPs might in future wish to offer guaranteed service levels to content providers in exchange for increased fees. In turn this could lead to differentiation of offers and promote investment in higher-speed access networks. Net neutrality regulation might prevent this sort of innovation.

Ofcom has stated that provided consumers are properly informed, such new business models could be an important part of the investment case for Next Generation Access, provided consumers are properly informed.

On the same basis, the Government has yet to see a case for legislation in favour of net neutrality. In consequence, unless Ofcom find network operators or ISPs to have Significant Market Power and justify intervention on competition grounds, traffic management will not be prevented.” 

  • [bold added for emphasis]

 Bottom line:

Kudos to the Brits for understanding that the core of the net neutrality debate — that net neutrality is really all about the government deciding who can lay claim to pieces of the network bandwidth pie, when the real problem is encouraging networks to continue making more bandwidth pie.

The Brits understand investment — that if the government preemptively takes away most of the pie… or unnecessarily restricts a network’s ability to sell the new bandwidth pie at a profit in the future, why would any network make more bandwidth pie?

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