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Columnists

Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills

dixe.jpgAs the great Gloucestershire poet Josephine Johnson once wrote: 'Three things I shall tell you/No, perhaps there are four/I'm not quite sure/Anyway, at least two of them will mildly interest you/If you're into geotectology'.

Had she lived to see it, Johnson might have chosen to say 'net neutrality' for, like geotectology, it is as important as it is sleep-inducing. So, place those matchsticks in your eyes, zone out the lullaby that has played in your head since you were six months old, and we'll do this thing together.

First up, you should know that net neutrality is what we have at the moment and is generally A GOOD THING. In a netshell, it's the principle that all websites are treated alike by all internet service providers. So, if you mosey on by an obscure site such as marryyourpet.com, the speed with which it whizzes (or not) down the cables into your computer is precisely the same as when you view a hugely popular megasite such as bbc.co.uk.

Now, certain ISPs, telecoms companies and mobile network providers have been trying to change this for some time. They want a tiered system with a fast lane - for which they would charge a king's ransom to those who can afford to pay - and a slow lane for everyone else. They would then charge their users - us - a premium for access to the fast lane with all the big (Facebook, Youtube etc) sites on it. This, they say, would help to ease the congestion that occurs at times of heavy usage.

Last June, the communications regulator Ofcom published a discussion paper [GET THOSE MATCHSTICKS BACK IN YOUR EYES!] (bit.ly/lbFB2O), calling for responses from various stakeholders. The organisation is due to pronounce on the subject later this year. However, their discussion paper concludes, 'A prohibition on network operators/ISPs charging content and applications providers for access to consumers is unlikely to lead to efficient market outcomes.' So, they already seem to be in favour of dismantling net neutrality (because heaven forfend that we mess with the market).

In November last year, Ed Vaizey (Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries) told a telecoms conference that ISPs should be allowed to charge websites for 'fast track' delivery of their content, which suggests he's not much of a net neutrality fan either.

So, unless you're living in the US (where you can oppose similar moves by joining the SavetheInternet.com Coalition), you've got something else to feel impotent rage about while you munch your granola of a morning, picking stray oats from your teeth with the final nail you will bang into the coffin of your optimism regarding the human condition.

As Johnson herself observed in her epic tone poem 'Jesus Amongst the Oranges': 'What seems fair to a rich man/Does not seem fair to a poor man/Jesus amongst the oranges/Thou art poor/Artn't thou?'