Following hot on the heels of one of England’s greatest sporting triumphs, beating Australia on its home turf in cricket, is good old British Telecom thumbing its nose at those other ex-colonials, the Americans, and the net neutrality bunkum.
In the best spirit of capitalism and free-trade, BT Wholesale has devised a specialized content delivery network that it will be offering to ISPs to enable uninterrupted delivery of bandwidth-hungry applications like video. Named Content Connect, the service is already being deployed to supply BT’s own TV customers with the BBC iPlayer.
ISPs, content providers and over-the-top (OTT) players that want to guarantee the very best experience for the customers are welcome to buy this premium service. BT claims that by using Content Connect, broadband providers would be able to reduce their costs through reduced spending on backhaul connections between phone exchanges and their own infrastructure.
Presumably, retail customers wanting guaranteed quality delivery would be willing to pay a premium. Of course, OTT players can continue to deliver over normal connections but there is no certainty that high bandwidth video will always be delivered interruption-free. This is a classic case of a supplier giving its customers a choice. We pay for higher quality in every aspect of our daily lives so why should telecommunications be any different?
Ah, but those net neutrality soothsayers were quick to bag the BT initiative saying it would create ‘two-tier’ internet and that it violated the very principle of net neutrality. The last time I looked, Great Britain was not actually part of the USA and that its regulator, Ofcom, was quite independent from any rules the FCC thought up.
However, Jim Killock, executive director of online consumer rights organization the Open Rights Group, said the service could results in a “fundamental shift away from buying services from the Internet to bundled services from ISPs.” Yes, Jim, that’s exactly what BT is probably hoping for! No ‘big fat dumb pipe’ for them, this is business.
In any case, this is BT’s network that it has invested in and has a right to see a return on. If it comes up with commercially viable options for its customers and they take them up then it is doing its job. If the market doesn’t want to pay more for better quality then BT will lose out and probably drop the whole idea in due course. That is the essence of business in free market economies and I, for one, support BT’s ballsy move so soon after the FCC announcements.
I suspect that diplomatic cables on this very subject are plying the Atlantic even as you read this, but don’t worry, WikiLeaks should have them online in no time!