Yet Berkett was clear yesterday that application-based restrictions would form part of a broader strategy to "monetise the intelligence" in the Virgin Media network. The firm did not, as reported by The Guardian today*, promise "to press ahead with its targeted online advertising technology".
DPI technology is at the centre of Phorm's system, but it's understood Berkett's comments about DPI yesterday did not refer to a behavioural advertising strategy. He also said comments he made at an analyst presentation in New York last month ("Our next initiative probably won't be with the Phorms of the world") did not preclude the possibility that Virgin Media will adopt such technology, but indicated it will look to other services powered by DPI - ones likely to be perceived as more consumer-friendly - first.
For example, Virgin Media is known to be in advanced talks to launch a legal, licensed peer-to-peer music service. DPI would be used to monitor the popularity of music files, enabling it to fairly divide subscription revenues among record labels.
BT completed its third trial with Phorm last week and plans to roll the "WebWise" system out across its retail broadband network next year. "There will now be a period of joint analysis of the results. Following the successful completion of analysis, both of the trial results and of any changes required for expansion, BT has informed the Company that it expects to move towards deployment," Phorm told investors yesterday.
Two previous trials were conducted in secret without user consent and are subject to scrutiny from the European Commission and Crown Prosecution Service. Phorm shares closed at £2.80 yesterday on its statement, up 40 per cent. In February stock was changing hands for more than £35.
Virgin Media maintained much more distance from Phorm than BT and has not pledged any deployment, nor customer trials of the system.
Berkett maintained the non-committal stance, but said the firm intends to lead the ISP industry in new network services that exploit customer data. "How we go about that is the $64 [sic] question," he said, although it's clear that Phorm isn't Virgin Media's priority. ®
*13.59: The passage quoted has been removed from the story.
The press event to launch the 50Mbit/s package yesterday was held in a grand building overlooking Buckingham Palace gardens. Berkett volunteered that the Queen is a Virgin Media customer.
So what's the Sovereign's position on net neutrality? We think we should be told. Let us know in comments, Liz.