The UK’s communications minister Ed Vaizey has said that comments he made last week, in which he appeared to suggest the government would not uphold net neutrality, were misconstrued.
Speaking at the FT Global Telecoms conference in London last week, Vaizey said that Internet service providers should "innovate and experiment with different business models". "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 told attendees.
That was perceived as a blow to net neutrality, the principle that Internet users have an equal right to access content whatever network connection they may be using. A multi-speed Internet would open up the possibility of commercial content providers paying ISPs to prioritise delivery of their content.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Vaizey insisted this was not what he meant. "People are already entitled to choose the speed of their connection," he told the newspaper, "but we’re not saying one ISP should be able to prioritise one provider’s content over another and I don’t support the commercial decision to downgrade a rival’s site."
Vaizey added that he was in agreement with Tim Berners-Lee, a high-profile proponent of net neutrality and an open Internet.
However, Labour MP Tom Watson suggested via Twitter that the backlash following Vaizey’s speech had forced the communications minister to change tack. "I think you may have forced a powerful minister to recalibrate. Well done all," he wrote on the micro-blogging platform this week.