In a statement released earlier today, BT denied claims that its upcoming Content Connect service contradicts its position of supporting net neutrality. Envisioned as an opportunity for content providers to strike up deals with ISPs to enable faster access to their services, the service would allow websites such as BBC's iPlayer to benefit from a faster connection to its users, allowing for consistent playback speeds regardless of network congestion. Critics fear that the service could encourage the development of a "two-tier internet", but BT is adamant that this is not the case.
"BT's Content Connect service will not create a two-tier internet, but will simply offer service providers the option of differentiating their broadband offering through enhanced content delivery," the statement reads. "BT supports the concept of net neutrality but believes that service providers should also be free to strike commercial deals should content owners want a higher quality or assured service delivery."
But opposers remain unsatisfied, and Labour MP Tom Watson described the news as a "worrying development."
"Turning a broadband connection into the internet equivalent of Sky TV is not good for small businesses or consumers. I will be raising this in Parliament at the earliest opportunity."
The threat of net neutrality disappearing in the modern age is unfortunately becoming more of a reality day by day, with the FCC recently declaring mobile broadband exempt from any such rules. Net neutrality has opponents on both sides of the pond, and culture minister Ed Vaizey has backed the "two-tier internet" as being a way for ISPs to innovate and improve their services.
"We have got to continue to encourage the market to innovate and experiment with different business models and ways of providing consumers with what they want," Vaizey argues. "This could include the evolution of a two-sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service."
The Open Rights Group sees it differently though, and in a public statement, executive director Jim Killock said:
"The idea is that ISPs will deliver this stuff better and more reliably than the internet. The result could be a fundamental shift away from buying services from the internet to bundled services from ISPs, which would reduce competition and take investment away from internet companies. That would be bad for everyone."