Virgin Media CEO attacks net neutrality

By Sylvie Barak, Inquirer

THE NEW CHIEF executive officer of Virgin Media, Neil Berkett, isn’t one to mince his words. And he’s not Neutral in the debate over net neutrality either. In fact, he thinks that the whole concept is, " a load of bollocks”.

After only a month in the job, Berkett has laid into critics who claim that ISPs like Virgin Media shouldn’t be allowed to control data traffic, and says that Virgin are already well on their way to signing deals with various content providers who will pay a premium to have their content delivered faster than others.

Network neutrality is the tenet that Web users should be the ones to control what content they access online, and that that content can be equally accessed across the Internet. Proponents of Net neutrality believe that its wrong for ISPs to use their market power to decide which content gets delivered faster based on which content provider paid more. They claim that this is no only discriminatory, but that it also fundamentally restricts the openness of the Internet. In their view, Internet providers should just be acting as a pipe for channeling data.

But Berkett, who works for billionaire Branson, has a slightly more class oriented view of the Internet. Taking a real world transport analogy, Berkett sneered that any public service broadcasters who refused to pay a premium for faster access would have to get stuck in "bus lanes", meaning that their content would be delivered at much slower speeds than that of rich content providers who paid Virgin premiums (who presumably get put in the “I can afford a Ferrari, look-how-rich-and-wonderful-I-am fast lane).

It was also in the interview with the Royal Television Society's Television magazine that Berkett said, "this net neutrality thing is a load of b****cks" (sic).

Virgin is the second biggest ISP in Britain, with approximately 3.6 million customers. Many may now switch to a different ISP, to avoid getting stuck in the bus lane.

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