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Berners-Lee calls for net neutrality at govt roundtable

Culture minister calls event useful and productive

Creator of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee called for net neutrality at a roundtable event hosted by Ed Vaizey, the government minister for culture, communications and creative industries.

The event, which took place in London yesterday and was also attended by ISPs, mobile networks, content providers, broadcasters and Ofcom, was designed to tackle the issues surrounding managing traffic on the web and protecting the open internet.

"While transparency about traffic management policy is a good thing, best practices should also include the neutrality of the net," Berners-Lee said.

"The web has grown so fast precisely because we have had two independent markets, one for connectivity, and the other for content and applications."

Vaizey said the event was "useful and productive".

"It gave all interested parties the opportunity to air their views and discuss these issues," he said.

"Internet traffic is growing. Handling that heavier traffic will become an increasingly significant issue, so it was important to discuss how to ensure the internet remains an open, innovative and competitive place."

'Greater transparency for traffic management'

Vaizey also commended BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky and a number of other ISPs that have signed a voluntary code of practice drawn up by the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG). This requires them to explain to consumers why they need 'traffic management policies', when they take place, how long they last and whether certain online activities are given priority over others.

"It is good to see that industry has taken the lead on agreeing greater transparency for their traffic management policies," said Vaizey. 

He added that the agreement should be guided by three simple principles.

"The first is users should be able to access all legal content. Second, there should be no discrimination against content providers on the basis of commercial rivalry. And finally, traffic management policies should be clear and transparent," Vaizey said.

“The internet has brought huge economic and social benefits across the world because of its openness, and that must continue."

However, Jim Kilock from the Open Rights Group, which also attended the event, denied that "anything that looks like meaningful self-regulation” had been suggested.

"In contrast with the USA, where rules are being put in place through the FCC, or Norway, where ISPs have agreed a meaningful code, our ISPs are not offering us what we and the UK economy needs. If that continues to be the case, then Ed Vaizey will find himself with the task of breaking the log jam," Kilock said in a blog.

See also: Govt wants 'fast-lane' net access

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