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ISPs will be allowed to charge content providers to prioritise their traffic, the government indicated today.

A speech by the communications minister Ed Vaizey confirmed that the concept of "net neutrality" remains irrelevant in the UK under the coalition.

As long as providers are open about their policies, he said, the competitive market means consumers can take their business elsewhere.

A potentially lucrative new revenue stream will be opened up for ISPs, with services that depend on speed or other network quality factors, such as video and online games, likely to be first to be asked to pay for delivery guarantees.

"Creating the content and networks of the future requires investment," said Vaizey.

"This means ISPs should be allowed to manage their networks to ensure a good customer service."

Under the light-touch plans, traffic management systems, which cut ISP costs, will also be unregulated.

Vaizey's position builds on proposals from Ofcom and the European Commission. Both have suggested that as long as competition between ISPs is strong, "net neutrality" regulations are unnecessary.

The issue is the subject of fierce, politicised debate in the US. Efforts to ignite such passions in the UK continue to be ignored by those holding the regulatory levers. ®

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