Net Neutrality and Mr Vaizey

This morning’s Observer column.

Here’s a tale of two societies. The South Korean communications commission is planning to boost broadband speeds in that country tenfold by the end of 2012. That means Koreans will get one gigabit per second (Gbps) connections by next year, which is 200 times as fast as the 5Mbps ADSL connection which is common in the UK. Meanwhile, back in the middle ages (aka Whitehall next Wednesday), a ministerial summit on “net neutrality” convened by the culture secretary Ed Vaizey will hear how Britain’s internet service providers (ISPs) plan to throttle still further the measly internet access they provide to the citizens of the UK in order to boost their bottom lines and reduce competition.

Now it has to be said that the principle of net neutrality is not exactly a staple of saloon-bar conversation, so most citizens will assume that next Wednesday’s discussions have nothing to do with them. In this, they are sadly mistaken – as they will discover if Ed Vaizey does indeed agree to let the ISPs violate or erode the principle…