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U.K. says no need for net neutrality rules

By Cecilia Kang

The U.K. minister in charge of communications policy said Wednesday that there isn't a need for so-called net neutrality regulation, citing healthy competition among Internet service providers as the key to preventing unfair practices on the Web.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey made the comments in a speech at the FT World Telecoms Conference, building similar statements by the E.U.'s digital commissioner that Europe doesn't need to impose regulation over network operators even as companies such as Google and Facebook warn that those communications firms could choke new competition by denying access to certain Web sites and applications.

In the United States, the biggest Internet network operators are pushing against regulation that would prohibit discrimination on their networks -- allowing some sites to download more quickly than others or blocking an application such as Slingbox on the iPhone.

"A lightly regulated Internet is good for business, good for the economy, and good for people," Vaizey said in a speech. "Competition in the market, combined with transparency, the ability to switch, and an overall adherence to the sort of principles I have outlined, should render such intervention unnecessary."

Through a practice of unbundling -- giving companies access to lease network capacity -- Britain offers consumers more choices among Internet service providers.

"Unlike in the U.K., in some parts of the U.S., consumers have no choice which ISP they use because only one offers a service in their area," Vaizey said. "So the debate has particular resonance there."

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission appears stuck in a push by Chairman Julius Genachowski to create net neutrality rules. The agency doesn't have clear authority to regulate broadband providers, according to a federal court. Genachowski has looked to Congress to pursue legislation, but that effort also failed.

Veazey said that in the U.K., the private sector and government have rightly focused on boosting fixed-wire and wireless networks. BT committed 2.5 billion pounds (almost $4 billion) to reach two-thirds of the population by 2015. Virgin Media wants to reach 50 percent of British homes with 100 megabits-per-second connections by 2012.

The government, meanwhile, has committed to auction two swaths of radio frequencies in 2012 for commercial mobile broadband.

Related stories:
FCC Chairman caught in a net: struggles with role as regulator

E.U. won't adopt net neutrality laws

Verizon joins Comcast in push against net neutrality

By Cecilia Kang  | November 17, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Net Neutrality  
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