BT has received criticism for appearing to be the first ISP to take up the UK government’s intention to end so called net neutrality for video services over the Internet.
In a speech in November 2010, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey Culture encouraged the ability for ISPs to charge providers of bandwidth hungry online video services extra to guarantee a good quality of service.Vaizey predicted the possible evolution of a two sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service and this is precisely what BT appears to be doing with its Wholesale division’s Content Connect.
Somewhat benignly, BT describes Content Connect as enabling ISPs to deliver video content within the UK to their customers more cost effectively than previously by connecting a content distribution and delivery platform to its IPstream Connect and Wholesale Broadband Connect networks.
This effectively means that the content distribution and delivery platform will be placed in the broadband network so that content by-passes the ISPs’ backhaul. BT says that this allows ISPs to establish a commercial relationship with content service providers (CSPs); opponents say that this needs net neutrality.
"This is a sea change in the way that content is delivered by ISPs," Jim Killock of the net freedom campaign organisation, the Open Rights Group, told BBC News. "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…This would reduce competition and take investment away from internet companies - that would be bad for everyone."
Refuting claims that its move heralded the end of net neutrality, BT said that it was a supporter of the concept but believed that service providers should be able to strike commercial deals, should content owners want a higher quality or assured service delivery. Its new service, it insisted, would not only allow ISPs to develop new revenue streams but would benefit end users by enabling TV video entertainment to be delivered to the home through a broadband line with the option of an enhanced experience including HD internet video on TV.