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Net neutrality not in UK 'public conscience'

Monday, October 13th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

The issue of net neutrality risks not being debated as “passionately” in the UK as in the United States because operators and content providers might be “very British about it”, an organiser of a worldwide telecoms and technology event has said.

Mark Dawson, head of production at the Broadband World Forum, an annual telecoms, media and technology event in Amsterdam, said the issue – a hot topic in America – has not yet hit “mainstream public conscience” in the UK.

Net neutrality, or the principle that all internet data and traffic should be treated equally, has become a controversial issue in the United States, with service providers and organisations such as Netflix on opposite sides of the fence on the issue.

Mr Dawson’s comments come as a survey of top industry figures showed that only half were in favour of net neutrality, with nearly 20% against it, and 30% undecided on the issue.

The issue will be debated by Broadband 100, a group of senior figures from areas of the industry including providers, regulators and analysts.

In a preliminary survey ahead of the conference, 55 members of the group were polled on some of the biggest threats and opportunities facing the industry.

Asked whether they were for or against net neutrality, 49 answered the question, with six choosing not to. Of those who answered, 51% were for net neutrality, 18.4% were against, while 30.6% were undecided.

Mr Dawson told Cable.co.uk: “There is a debate about net neutrality happening within UK industry, however this hasn’t hit mainstream public conscience in the UK yet for a variety of reasons.

“The OTTs all seem to be relatively combative with the operators in the US at the moment.

It might become an issue in the UK, but I assume we will all be very British about it and not get as passionate and perhaps sensationalist as our American cousins.

“Whether this will help or hinder the UK debate remains to be seen.”

Mr Dawson said it was no surprise that many leading figures were sitting on the fence on the issue.

He told us: “Net neutrality is horrendously complicated when you get down to the nuts and bolts.

“For some reason every man and woman has a view on it.

“The view that they have is not due to them having an accurate understanding of everything that constitutes net neutrality.

“There’s people I have spoken to in the industry who have quite a lot of sympathy for operators who are being painted as bad guys.

“Obviously mainstream media are highlighting it and getting people whipped up saying it’s great.

‘But there’s a lot of technical considerations that need to happen that are quite complicated.

“It’s a very complicated issue. Some people are sitting on the fence and seeing how the wind blows.”

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