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Virgin CEO Calls Net Neutrality 'Bollocks'; Boycotts Threatened
Virgin Media is facing a possible boycott after its chief executive Neil Berkett described net neutrality as "a load of bollocks" and appeared to suggest that companies could pay for a stronger internet presence.
Berkett said in an interview in Television magazine that the company is already in talks with websites to provide privileged data transmission. The news prompted leading figures on the internet to call for a boycott.
"As a Virgin customer, I am not paying to see those services that bribe Virgin to reach me. I am paying to reach the entire web, whichever bits I think are useful, as quickly as Virgin can deliver them," said Cory Doctorow, internet activist and journalist.
"Theoretically, I am locked into a Virgin plan for another six months, but as far as I am concerned, they have just announced that they are violating the agreement by announcing that the services I can reach will be systematically slowed down unless they pay Virgin extra.
"That means that we are now null and void. I will be calling to cancel today. Who is with me?"
Net neutrality is the principle that all data is treated equal during transmission and has been a founding principle of the internet, making it possible for websites to compete on a level playing field.
Companies like Google are pushing for laws that would actually enshrine the concept in law.
Charles Stross, the UK's leading science fiction author, has added his voice to calls for a boycott, claiming in a blog entry that not only is Virgin intent on scrapping net neutrality but is already throttling bandwidth.
"Virgin Media have adopted the toxic and ultimately suicidal view that they own their customers, a captive audience who can be exploited in any way they deem reasonable," he wrote.
"Throttle their bandwidth, demand payments for access, charge for support calls, decide what equipment they may or may not connect to the network, because Virgin are the national cableco monopoly.
"Richard Branson ought to sue the f***ers for damaging his trademark. As for me, all I'm looking for is a suitable replacement TV service and I'm outta here. "
Virgin Media has denied assertions that it is planning to allow companies to pay for priority traffic.
Asam Ahmad, head of media relations at Virgin Media's consumer business, told vnunet.com that Berkett's comments had been taken out of context.
"We welcome an informed debate but we are not charging for content provision, " he said.
"It may be that in the future content providers will want to provide that. There is an ongoing conversation. You cannot rule anything out on the internet. It keeps changing."
Ahmad added that some companies are already getting faster access, not because of preferential treatment but because they had invested in infrastructure that made web pages more available.
Virgin Media intends to reassure customers that net neutrality has not been broken, according to Ahmad.
© 2008 Infomatics.com