Culture minister Ed Vaizey has signalled he is in favour of abolishing net neutrality and has backed a ‘two speed' internet to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to charge extra for speedier access.
His comments would seem to start the ball rolling in the direction of a two tier system, which could mean companies using heavy bandwidths such as the Beeb and Google could have to pay a hefty bill, the BBC reported.
While Vaizey has reportedly said that ISPs should be able to look into new charges to keep expanding internet services, critics have blasted the idea, which they believe could curb innovation and infringe on free speech.
The BBC said Vaizey suggested traffic management will probably allowed in the future, with a ruling set to be made in the New Year. The EU is said to have backed the idea of traffic management providing there is transparency so the web stays ‘open'.
However, it would seem that the UK is planning on moving in the opposite direction to the US, where President Obama has reportedly backed net neutrality and regulators have threatened ISPs with legal action if they restrict access to sites.
Vaizey reportedly said ‘massive investment' is needed in the UK's internet infrastructure as the quality of services is under threat from the increasing use of mobile and wireless networks and as a result, ISPs have to find a new way of funding their investment projects.
"We have got to continue to encourage the market to innovate and experiment with different business models and ways of providing consumers with what they want. This could include the evolution of a two-sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service," he reportedly said.
Vaizey is also said to have suggested that content users might have to pay to use an ISP's network, but "content and application providers should be able to know exactly what level of service they are getting especially if they are paying for it."
In a bid not to scare off content providers any more, he reportedly said the UK would not add another layer of law over the EU's and said in practice many ISPs already use a degree of traffic management without breaching consumer or competition rules. In fact he argued that the competition between ISPs ensured consumers' rights.
Some websites seemingly fall outside the possible new rules such as legal websites which users must be guaranteed to be able to access.
However not everyone is happy about the new proposals. Jim Killock who belongs to the Open Rights Group told the BBC that if the proposals are made law they could have ‘appalling' consequences for commercial innovation and freedom of speech.
"Ed Vaizey is wrong to assume that there is no problem if BT or Virgin restrict people's internet access for their commercial advantage. Removing 'net neutrality' will reduce innovation and reduce people's ability to exercise their freedom of speech. This is why ORG will campaign against any market abuse, should Ed Vaizey allow it to happen," he reportedly said.