back to article Ofcom opens Neutrality debate with 'hands off' warning

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Baseball. McCarthyism. Net neutrality. Not all US cultural exports succeed abroad, and the latter has landed with a dull thud in Europe. Ofcom today opened a consultation on net neutrality, but its preferred stance is likely to disappoint the Tin Foil Hat brigade of web activists who created …

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Anonymous Coward

wait what?

So high bandwidth sites like youtube and iPlayer are allowed to be throttled at peak times to provide a quality of service to the masses?

Would it be anti-competitive for iPlayer to be throttled over C4 OnDemand/SkyPlayer? or for Sky Broadband to throttle iPlayer access?

not that it matters for me, an ex-pat, no IPlayer access

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: wait what?

Why wouldn't a network be allowed to be allowed to throttle?

The smarter networks will buy sufficient capacity so they don't lose you as a customer. The dumber ones won't. But nobody is obliged to go broke.

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FAIL

What really irritates me...

What really irritates me is that at present, I'm not paying to use the internet for any particular service, I'm paying for an internet connection with a certain speed/quality (50MB, low contention). What I choose to do with it should be up to me - Note I have no objection to paying a bit more for a good connection but once I've paid for it, that should be it - if I want to watch videos, play games, multicast video of my pet gerbil [not sure where that came from], Then I should be able to do so.

If the company can't support the product it has sold me then it should either have not sold me it in the first place or charged more.

Perhaps I'm missing something here but isn't this like saying you can pay for a dishwasher but we may decide not to let you wash cutlery only plates? And this is good for competition as those who want to wash cutlery too can pay more for a machine that does both? Of course, if you want to wash glasses as well....

Frankly, I can't see this as anything other than a major win for the ISPs - sell the same thing twice or more. Pay for "the internet" and then pay again to use it.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: What really irritates me...

not a problem on cable. why don't you move to a new ISP?

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What it reminds me of is...

What it reminds me of is the phone service.

When was the last time you went to make a call phone call at peak times and could not get a line.

I do remember in the dim and distant past where this did happen to me once when I was a child.

For some reason, my phone always works unless my particular physical line is down.

For the number of lines that a phone company operates, they are forced to ensure that there is enough bandwidth to accommodate it. And don't give me all that guff about the phone service being much simpler in implementation that networking - phone systems are unbelievably complex. The difference is expectation. We expect the phone to work ALL the time. We expect that our network will be crap some of the time.

Now I know that highspeed broadband requires a much larger hose, but it seems to me that if you advertise a service at a certain speed then (notwithstanding the fact that the site you are downloading from may be busy itself) that speed should be available to you ALL the time, not just during quiet times.

I've lost count of the number of times when I can't even get name resolution because the contention is so high or the ISP is having "problems".

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Cable

For what proportion of the population is cable even an option? I can't get it. Nor landline broadband for that matter.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Cable

" For what proportion of the population is cable even an option? I can't get it. Nor landline broadband for that matter. "

In which case, you're "throttling" yourself.

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Happy

@Basic

"If the company can't support the product it has sold me then it should either have not sold me it in the first place or charged more."

Ofcom's bef seems to be that at present it is *almost* impossible to find out what ISP's *are* doing by way of traffic shaping, prioritising etc and hence consumers cannot make informed choices but if they *could* bad suppliers would loose customers and good ones would grow.

I hate to say this, but I think your position is pretty much that of Ofcom.

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Ofcom pretends to open Neutrality debate...

is what actually happened.

Ofcom is incapable of DOING anything of any consequence.

Its as if their motto is "Failing where others succeed".

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UK broadband users are throttled, shaped and capped up the wazoo

And having no regulation is going to help this?

Most of the ISPs are either owned by Murdoch or are also cell phone companies.

So no regulation means that the BBC news site will be throttled to say 300baud for Sky customers and emails to people on other networks will cost me extra for Virgin customers!

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: UK broadband users are throttled, shaped and capped up the wazoo

Oh dear:

"Most of the ISPs are either owned by Murdoch or are also cell phone companies. So no regulation means that the BBC news site will be throttled to say 300baud for Sky customers and emails to people on other networks will cost me extra for Virgin customers!"

But you!! only used one exclamation mark!!!

Kinda illustrates my point about hysteria based on ignorance.

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basic...

Basic, you are best off going for BE Unlimited - I pay £8 a month and get a great 8Mb line, downloads come in at around 730 to 740. I could if I wanted get a 16mb line for £15. Quids in!

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Stop

You get what you pay for

If you would like a 1:1 contended STM-0 internet connection (avec SLA of course), you are virtually guaranteed you can get one (and have FULL bandwidth 99.999% of the time allowing ALL traffic), but be prepared to pay mega-$$$ for it. I bet providers would even lay fiber to your house (no matter where you are), but again, more $$$. Bottom-line--tiered/capped/contended internet means you can have a fat pipe "most of the time" (what that means is in your contract) without paying enough to buy a new car to you provider every month.

To those comparing voice service expectations to internet access, remember that a voice circuit in the PSTN is 64kbps (a single E0). Now, if you multiply the number of 64kbps lines multiplexed into a 50Mbps pipe (64kbps x 800 / 1024), would you be prepared to pay 800x the circuit cost (plus any amounts for maintaining the fiber-optic equipment for the last mile of your link) of voice line for a line (connecting you to your ISP) meeting the same expectations each month? Thought not.

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Anonymous Coward

Evening all. Are we well?

"Why wouldn't a network be allowed to be allowed to throttle? The smarter networks will buy sufficient capacity so they don't lose you as a customer."

My recollection of some of the more sensible contributions to the US/Canada net neutrality debate, which Andrew seems to overlook for the sake of stirring (hey, it gets page hits), is that sensible folks don't have a problem with throttling AS LONG AS THERE ARE NON-THROTTLED ALTERNATIVES READILY AVAILABLE (is that enough caps for Andrew?).

My recollection is that in many areas of North America, as in many areas of the UK, there is for all intents and purposes only one provider per area, and if that underlying provider chooses to implement his network in a traffic-minimised rather than quality-maximised way, e.g. in a way which discriminates against certain classes of traffic, the few punters who are willing to pay for quality are left with nowhere to go. Just like much of the UK has no ISPs to choose from apart from BT and those reliant on BT's wholesale services.

"Most of the ISPs are either owned by Murdoch or are also cell phone companies."

Or are dependent on the dead hand of BTwholesale and the much delayed much over-hyped 21CN (news about the voice side of which seems to have gone very very very quiet).

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The people get the government—and regulations—it deserves.

Personally, I'm *almost* with OFCOM on this one. (Not that OFCOM have any teeth, so nothing they say is of any great consequence.) The internet is just a pipe. There's no reason why companies *shouldn't* be able to offer "Premium Internet Video Service! All you can eat!" as an optional extra.

However, there needs to be a choice between ADSL, cable, etc. At present, cable still has very little coverage outside urban areas—and even London has a few gaps; I used to live on a small street in Brockley, SE4, which was surrounded by streets stuffed with cable, but had none of its own. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The new government's decision to stick with such a low minimum standard—2Mb/sec—is also unacceptable.

Infrastructure needs to be taken back under national ownership and rolled-out to all. No ifs. No buts. And it needs to be the best-of-breed too: fibre-optic, end to end. This gives ample headroom to allow for ever faster and better services.

This approach would also help ease congestion in major cities as it becomes much more viable for businesses to move outside major conurbations, and for many employees to work from home more often. This reduces (but obviously won't eliminate) CO2 emissions as well as the need for more, and wider, roads and railways. It increases productivity—no need to spend great chunks of your working life sitting in a car or standing in a train—and reduces stress and related health issues.

It's a win-win, no matter how you slice it.

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Anonymous Coward

Americans busy havening a good temper tantrum, ofcom unimpressed

Having the market sort itself out is a nice idea but it requires that the market isn't entirely one-sided, but has some sort of feedback going on. Just ``competition'' alone isn't enough. Here, it requires that the customers have the information required to choose (transparency) but also that they understand what there is to choose. I don't think the latter's the case much in ISP land.

Still, not interfering does have its merits, now and then. Like, when it's not needed. Ofcom think now it not the time to meddle, and they might well be right. Let's give it some time, have a jolly old discussion, and sleep a couple nights over it. I for me think that it's good to realise we're still in this together, that is the network is still largely cooperative, so we best play nice. And that Mr. Briscoe has a good lead on the underlying technical issues that kicked off the hysteria. Have a gander at the paper if you're interested in the details that form the cradle of the whole discussion:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.66.8436&rep=rep1&type=pdf

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Americans busy havening a good temper tantrum, ofcom unimpressed

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.66.8436&rep=rep1&type=pdf

That's a good paper, more people should read it. We discussed it back here in "Dismantling a religion":

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/13/bennett_eff_neutrality_analysis/

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, thanks for the reminder.

I did a cursory check as I vaguely recollected something of the sort, but failed to find anything. My google-fu must be failing me.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Yes, thanks for the reminder.

I'd completely forgotten about it, it hits a few bullseyes.

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Welcome

imperfect competition

Where there is competition in provision better information about what your current and other potential ISPs are doing to prioritise traffic can only improve it. The main purposes of regulation here has to be to ensure transparency and to prevent competition deteriorating through corporate cannibalism leading to cartelisation.

Where there is deficient competition, e.g. in rural areas with little broadband provision, the effects of a monopoly and the role of regulation is another story entirely. The neutrality debate arose from memory of the behaviour of the late nineteenth century US robber barons who used rail monopolies to create monopolies in other areas of business e.g. steel by being in a position to decide which products would get moved and which would get delayed. Microsoft did something similar more recently in the applications market prior to the regulators getting up to speed to limit what they were allowed to get away with.

Rail and telecom monopolies are a natural phenomena, because the investment needed to place rail lines or phone exchanges can't be multiplied by competitive providers and practical use of rail capacity is too inflexible for competitive service provision (ref. UK rail privatisation) to be very effective. In connection with the UK phone network, smart regulation has opened up competition over a singular network infrastructure by forcing the provider (BT) to wholesale capacity to many different ISPs.

In practice competition will be non-existent in some areas and less than perfect in others so a further purpose of the regulator will be to monitor the extent of abuses where competition is imperfect. This monitoring also needs many eyeballs, so what the ISPs do in connection with prioritisation, quality of service and traffic shaping has to be put in real time into the public domain.

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Anonymous Coward

re: imperfect competition

"opened up competition over a singular network infrastructure by forcing the provider (BT) to wholesale capacity to many different ISPs."

You meant to say "opened up competition in certain selected geographies, by forcing the last mile provider to sell access to their last mile at near or below cost (justified by "priming the market" for LLU). In general the competition appears not to be who can offer best quality or best value for money but it seems to be for who can offer the worst quality of service with the longest contractual lock-in (O2/Be excepted, at least until recently). Areas not served by LLU cherry-pickers are mostly doomed to stay in the DSL stone age".

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