UK Government Report Says Net Neutrality Threatens Innovation

from the fighting-for-you dept

As Mike pointed out, the British government's recent "Digital Britain" report is a mishmash of hedges and wishy-washiness that seems to have been carefully crafted to avoid taking much of a stand on anything. But in addition to its musing on file-sharing, it's worth looking at its recommendations on network neutrality, too. The report says the government should do nothing to prevent ISPs from charging content providers for "traffic prioritization" -- basically letting them charge certain providers a fee in exchange for guaranteed service levels. It also says that traffic shaping and other blocking and network management policies should be a-okay. The reasoning is that ISPs have to be allowed to do these things with their networks in order to "promote investment" and not stifle innovation.

It's hard to see this, as well as the recommendations that ISPs should be copyright cops, as little more than attempts to prop up incumbent (and often ailing) businesses. It's hard to fathom why ISPs should be forced to do record labels' detective work, why they should be on the front lines of protecting the labels' failing business model. And the claim that letting ISPs levy fees to discriminate among different providers' traffic will promote investment, and not allowing them to do so will stifle innovation seems pretty ludicrous. In fact, it's completely wrong: allowing ISPs to charge content providers for service levels will stifle investment and innovation -- established, big players will pay the fees -- not to offer wonderful new services -- but in an attempt to hold down competition. It's not hard to see things get to the point where startups and small companies with new, innovative services will have trouble getting a foothold without making big payments to ISPs. How does any of this benefit the British taxpaying public at large?

Filed Under: carter report, digital broadband, net neutrality, uk


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  • identicon
    Reason, 3 Feb 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Your thinking is stuck

    Why do you keep thinking that politicians EVER do ANYTHING that is for the benefit of the taxpaying public? If the last eight years or so has taught us anything, it's that governments exist to serve corporations, who in turn line the pockets of the politicians who run the government. Notice how there are no citizens involved?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jan, 3 Feb 2009 @ 2:57pm

    net neutrality by competition

    I would not be so worried about it. I used to live in UK. I lived in a small city (about 10 000 citizens) and there were about 30 ISPs available.Hopefuly competition and tools like Google's M-Lab will take care of this. Still better then some 'government agency for network neutrality' turned evil.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan J, 3 Feb 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Allowing them to control their network?

    So you think _allowing_ an ISP to control their network is a Bad Thing? But the question isn't really about _allowing_ is it? They don't need your permission. What you're actually supporting is forbidding them from managing their network the way they see fit. You want to be able to, via government mandate, tell them what they can and can't do with their network. For a website that's so keen on market solutions, you're completely wrong about this one. Regardless of how noble or fair the intentions, government mandate never makes anything better, and this particular argument isn't even really fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2009 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Allowing them to control their network?

      You raise a very fair point that does merit a thoughtful response. If government intervention is problematic as is argued with regard to patents and copyrights, why would it not be problematic here?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Chris S, 3 Feb 2009 @ 4:47pm

        Re: Re: Allowing them to control their network?

        I would be fine with an ISP doing whatever they want with their network, provided that they build it with their money, and not taxpayer money.
        If the network was built with taxpayer money, then it's just for the network to be run for the benefit of the taxpayer. Pay the money back, give up the exclusive deals, and all's well.
        When a company becomes a monopoly, they must be watched to ensure that they (on-paper citizens) are not being valued higher than real people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 3 Feb 2009 @ 5:05pm

      Re: Allowing them to control their network?

      So you think _allowing_ an ISP to control their network is a Bad Thing?

      If it were actually their network, that would be one thing. But when it's built with gov't subsidies, gov't right of ways, and other issues that block out competitors, it's not really *their* network, is it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2009 @ 6:41pm

      Re: Allowing them to control their network?

      Would you be ok with the phone company charging you more for a call to Pizza Hut than to Dominos ? According to you, it is their network and they can do what they want with it.

      However ... according to the government, it is not their network and they are under the control of the public utilities commission (forgoing any discussion about their usefullness).

      Now, I suggest that if this BS continues there is a strong possibility that the web may be put in the same bucket.

      So yeah, rock that boat some more you morons.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RD, 3 Feb 2009 @ 4:01pm

    Go right ahead

    There is a part of me that would love to see some of this stuff happen, on the ISP end where they become copyright cops. Because what NO one (certainly not the *IAA industries) wants anyone to look at is, if that comes to pass, EVERYONE who could possibly be affected by this will come crawling out of the woodwork demanding money and protection from the ISP's. They will find their common carrier/safe harbor rights stripped (by law or even just by fiat) and become liable for EVERY infringing action that comes across their network. I for one cant wait to come screaming at them with MY hand out over all the infringement they will be responsible for if this comes to pass. I will never have to work or produce anything new ever again! Just as the founding fathers intended....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Feb 2009 @ 2:02pm

      Re: Go right ahead

      Copyright infringement handouts? That's small potatoes.

      The safe harbor issue that should really scare the ISPs is child pornography. If Comcast or AT&T gets charged as a codefendant in a child porn case, having demonstrated some ability to control what passes through their pipes, they're screwed.

      Hence, this whole net neutrality thing is a nonissue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dennis Gorelik, 3 Feb 2009 @ 5:38pm

    The less government -- the better

    All other things being equal -- the less government intervention -- the better.
    So far we didn't see any substantial abuse of content providers by ISPs. So, it's a good decision to avoid government intervention into ISPs business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SteveD, 4 Feb 2009 @ 1:11am

    Investement

    A big issue hovering in the background is the future development and growth of the UK's broadband structure.

    Much of Britain's telecommunication network is much older then other parts of Europe and upgrades to let it deliver modern broadband speeds are very costly (8GB connections the max in much of the UK, 10GB and 30Gb available in certain locations).

    Just who gets to pay for the upgrades has turned into a bit of fight, with BT (who owns most of the network) refusing to front the bill alone. The problem comes that BT probably isn't profitable enough in its own right to afford such upgrades, and most smaller ISPs run on increasingly small profit margins.

    The alternative of the tax payer footing the bill is not too popular in Government, hence them wanting to promote anything that might encourage investment in the ISP's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael Holloway, 4 Feb 2009 @ 2:02am

    Why Digital Britain could be bad for you

    You're right to be concerned about the network management recommendations, which haven't received much media coverage and are a growing concern to UK netizens. Its also notable that another report published on the same day, which pulls back from legislation to enforce a graduated response style solution, has been largely ignored by the media: https://publicaffairs.linx.net/news/?p=858 And here's a view from Open Rights Group on how Digital Britain disregards the public interest: http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/01/30/why-digital-britain-could-be-bad-for-you/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Innovation..., 4 Feb 2009 @ 5:43am

    The language..

    The language sounds very similar to a Department of Justice missive published a few years back saying largely the same thing. That agency is supposed to be neutral..

    We're at the point where government and lobbyists for the largest corporations are largely indistinguishable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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