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December 2, 2010

Businesses press government on open Internet

Stick with net neutrality promises, Vaizey told

By Steve Evans

A group of companies representing the UK’s internet economy have written an open letter to Culture, Communications and Creative Industries minister Ed Vaizey, pleading with him to stand by his promise of an open Internet.

The 19-strong consortium is made up of the likes of eBay, the Open Rights Group, Skype, Yahoo UK & Ireland and we7. Coadec, Ariadne Capital, Consumer Focus, Eden Ventures, IMRG, the National Union of Journalists, University of Oxford, Reevoo, TechHub, Truphone, The Filter, Which? and Article 19 are also represented.

"We welcome your recent statement that the UK Government supports access to the open Internet," the letter begins. "In particular we support your call for adherence to the openness principle both for fixed and mobile access to the Internet."

"This is the first time that such a clear political commitment has been made in the UK to preserve the end-to-end principle that underpins the Internet, and the benefits it brings to citizens, consumers, businesses and economic growth," the group adds. The letter sets out five key principles to complement the government’s commitment.

First, that the Internet is kept open for anyone to use in any way they wish, within the law. Second, the group asks that traffic management be kept to a minimum and, crucially, deployed for purely technical, security or legal reasons. "There should be no discrimination in the treatment of Internet traffic, based on device, or the origin and/or destination of the content, service or application," the letter states.

In addition to this request, the group also asks that information about traffic management is relayed to anyone who may need to know.

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The fourth request is that, "Future investment in network capacity and underlying infrastructure must take place in a way that is consistent with the end-to-end principle and where new models of Internet access do not compromise openness."

The fifth and final key principle reads: "For competitive markets to function effectively, the regulatory framework must be fit for purpose and able to respond to abuses by network providers."

"End-users’ choice of which applications, content, and services to view, use or run is already restricted in the UK today, especially when accessing the Internet on mobile. The Government’s commitment to the open Internet must be reflected in action on the ground to remove any such arbitrary restrictions to the open Internet. We also recommend the Government’s policies on the open Internet and traffic management take account of citizens’ access to public services online in the future," the letter adds.

The letter concludes by calling on the UK government to adopt EU legislation on electronic communications as well as getting Ofcom to closely monitor the market. The group also calls for ISPs to develop meaningful self regulation, "to ensure fair principles around traffic management to serve as a benchmark for assessing what is or is not acceptable practice."

A recent report by Google and US consultants Boston Consulting Group revealed that the Internet is worth £100bn per year to the UK economy, representing 7.2% of the UK’s GDP, more than the construction, transport and utilities industries and just a shade behind the financial services sector.

The report also states that the UK’s Internet economy is likely to grow 10% each year, reaching 10% of GDP by 2015. Those in favour of net neutrality believe a two-tiered Internet, hinted at by Ed Vaizey recently, would damage the UK’s online economy.

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