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Ofcom stays in neutral on net neutrality

It couldn't happen here, says chairman

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Ofcom has no intention of lording it over the net neutrality debate, the head of the regulator made clear yesterday.

The regulator seems set on a hands-off attitude, leaving content providers to negotiate premium deals with access providers if they want, while giving them the option of using competition law if they feel they're being turned over.

Ofcom chairman Lord Currie of Marylebone dismissed the US clamour over net neutrality during a Q/A following the annual Ofcom lecture in London today.

Asked what the regulator's view on the debate was, Currie said: "It's as well it hasn't come over here, as it's a somewhat confused debate."

If service providers were investing in their networks, it was clear they would want to make a return on their investment, he said.

"[I] think it's a thoroughly bad idea not to charge for quality of service," m'lud declared.

Asked by the moderator, BBC correspondent Nick Higham, why the debate was so much more high profile in the US, Lord Currie suggested this was because the application of competition law in Europe was tougher.

"I do see competition law as the answer to many of the issues," he said.

Speaking to El Reg after the debate, he added that the crucial point was whether providers were attempting to force content providers to pay. A content provider going to a service provider and asking for a guaranteed level of service was OK, he said. Access providers strong arming content providers into paying, was not.

What the net neutrality lobby had done, said Lord Currie, was to turn an essentially economic issue into a moral crusade. ®

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