Virgin Media mops up CEO's 'boll*cks' outburst

The BBC knows net neutrality is a bust already, it seems


Virgin Media (VM) today moved to calm fears that it will start throttling web video from providers who refuse to hand over a levy to deliver their content.

A spokesman for the firm said it does not intend to hinder access to content providers who do not pay. Rather, VM could offer content providers deals to upgrade their provisioning if they want to ensure best access to to broadband subscribers.

The BBC already does that via direct peering with the VM network, to offer faster iPlayer access. That link sees no money change hands. "It could be argued that that's a non-neutral solution," the spokesman said.

VM said it would not seek to press others to follow suit by interfering with its customers' link to the wider internet. "We strongly support the principle that the internet should remain a space that is open to all and we have not called for content providers to pay for distribution," its statement said.

"However, we recognise that as more customers turn to the web for content different providers will have different needs and priorities and, in the long term, it's legitimate to question how this demand will be managed. We welcome an informed debate on this issue."

Speculation of a bid by VM to squeeze cash from content provders has been sparked by comments made by CEO Neil Berkett, reported by the Royal Television society magazine. "This network neutrality thing is a load of bollocks," Television said he charged at a conference in February.

Berkett reportedly said video providers who don't pay for technical ways around the congestion on the wider internet might effectively end up in slow "bus lanes". That comment has been seized upon by net neutrality advocates as evidence of a conspiracy to turn the screws on the BBC and other broadcasters.

VM's spokesman said Berkett's statements had been taken out of context, insisting: "We're not suggesting there will be any denial of access to those who don't want to pay."

The firm currently operates bandwidth throttling at peak times, but unlike many other ISPs does not use deep packet inspection technology to single out classes of traffic, such as peer-to-peer. The heaviest five per cent of users are simply slowed down across the board.

The cable firm today argued that its upcoming 50MBit/s network upgrade makes it well placed to serve the boom in internet video, whether big providers want to get involved in network issues or not. Other ISPs led by Tiscali, who buy bandwidth from BT, have called on the BBC to help pay for the cost of distributing shows online.

Tiscali's stance has invoked anger from broadband subscribers who rightly blame the internet industry for years of false marketing of "unlimited" packages, all the while introducing ever-more stringent traffic management policies in the background.

Yet it seems increasingly clear that someone's going to pay the price for the UK's lack of investment in a modern internet infrastructure. We suspect you can draw your own conclusions as to who it's looking like that'll be. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • US, UK, Western Europe fail to hit top 50 cheapest broadband list
    Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Ukraine came top. Are you starting to see a pattern?

    In an analysis of 3,356 fixed-line broadband deals in 220 countries, price comparison website Cable.co.uk found that the UK has the 92nd cheapest internet, beating the US, which came in 134th place.

    Based on 41 packages, the average cost per month for broadband in Britain came in at $39.01. Stateside, this rose to $55, from 34 packages measured.

    For these bulwarks of western democracy, 92nd and 134th place isn't particularly impressive. But if you really want to shave the dollars off your internet bill, you have a number of options.

    Continue reading
  • The right to repairable broadband befits a supposedly critical utility
    A bolt of lightning has caused me days of misery, because the fix requires too much proprietary tech

    Column I heard an electric discharge, a bit like a Jacob's ladder, immediately before a deafening crack of thunder. I'd never been so close to a lightning strike! All of the lights in the house went bright, then dimmed, then went back to normal. "Uh-oh," I thought, "I'm in trouble now." Everything in the house had been hit by a nasty surge and the oft-spoken aphorism that broadband services are now a utility to rank with water and electricity was suddenly very, very, real to me.

    But it was electricity I worried about first. I use top of the line surge protectors so my most sensitive devices – computers and monitors, of which I have many – all seemed fine. But I'd overlooked two other connections that come into nearly every home: the antenna and the phone line.

    My television seemed to have taken a direct hit. It still worked – mostly – but appeared unable to receive any digital broadcasts. That circuit, lying on the other side of the antenna lead, likely took a big hit from the lightning strike. But the rest of the television seemed fine – at first. After a few days, and several spontaneous reboots, I began to intuit that devices don't always immediately fail when hit by lightning. Sometimes they gradually shed their functions and utility.

    Continue reading
  • Telecoms growth forecast for 2022 may be optimistic
    Analyst view: 4Q21 drop plus strains from war mean component shortages drag on

    The telecoms kit market had a good 2021 with revenues close to $100bn, up more than 20 percent since 2017, but growth is now slowing, according to analyst Dell'Oro Group. Huawei is also starting to feel the effect of sanctions, but still leads the global market by a fair margin.

    However, the Dell'Oro Group's prediction of slightly less growth for 2022 may turn out to be optimistic amid warnings that the Ukraine war is already having an impact on the fragile supply chain recovery.

    Dell'Oro's analysis is based on the telecoms market sectors it monitors, including Broadband Access, Microwave & Optical Transport, Mobile Core Network (MCN), Radio Access Network (RAN), and Service Provider Router & Switch.

    Continue reading
  • Fibre broadband uptake in UK lags behind OECD countries
    Not very 'world-beating'

    Optical-fibre internet now makes up 32 per cent of fixed broadband subscriptions across the OECD countries, and is the fastest growing broadband technology. However, there is a mixed picture with cable still dominant in the Americas and the UK still predominantly DSL.

    These figures come from an update to the OECD's broadband portal, indicating that fibre subscriptions grew by 15 per cent across the OECD countries between June 2020 and June 2021, with demand for faster internet speeds as employees worked remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions cited as one reason.

    Fixed broadband subscriptions in OECD countries totalled 462.5 million as of June 2021, up from 443 million a year earlier, while mobile broadband subscriptions totalled 1.67 billion, up from 1.57 billion a year earlier.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022