Vaizey Spells Out His Views On Net Neutrality

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has clarified his stance on net neutrality, the unbiased running of Internet service access

UK government culture minister Ed Vaizey has clarified his position on net neutrality, saying that he is a supporter and that his comments at the Financial Times World Telecoms conference last week were misunderstood.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Vaizey said: “My first and overriding priority is an open Internet where consumers have access to all legal content. Should the Internet develop in a way that was detrimental to consumer interests we would seek to intervene.”

Differing Views On Net Neutrality

This will not convince web-founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee that he and Vaizey (left) are reading from the same web page. He told The Guardian newspaper that net neutrality has been a topic of conversation between Vaizey and himself. “We have discussed it on the phone but I can’t say, yet, that we’re entirely in line,” he was reported as saying.

Vaizey views it differently, saying, “I am absolutely as one with someone like Tim Berners-Lee.”

Analysis of Vaizey’s open Internet statement does not detract from his comments from last week when he said that ISPs should be allowed to “innovate and experiment with different business models”. This, he explained, could result in a two-sided market where consumers and content providers could pay for differing levels of service.

This last comment appeared to give a green light to a company such as Sky, for example, which could pay for a higher service level for its web video provision while competitors find their provision from the same ISP restricted in bandwith, known as throttling. Vaizey has said, however that he feels that “light regulation” would be the consumers safeguard rather than full legislation.

Prioritising content

“I don’t accept the premise that I am not protecting the Internet from enormous commercial concerns. I’m all in favour of innovation providing it’s not detrimental to consumers,” he said.

“People are already entitled to choose the speed of their connection,” he explained, “but we’re not saying one ISP should be able to prioritise one provider’s content over another and I don’t support the commercial decision to downgrade a rival’s site.”

The concept of any ISP involvement with quality of service controlled only by government guidelines is abhorrent to organisations such as the Open Rights Group which is running a campaign to ask UK MPs to support the Parliamentary Early Day Motion of Labour MP Tom Watson calling for a debate on the subject of net neutrality.