BT have been accused of going against net-neutrality principles by launching a CDN (Content Delivery Network) system for broadband providers called Content Connect which allows ISPs to serve content to end users direct from BT Wholesale's network rather than over the Internet. Campaigners for net freedom said it could lead to a trend towards consumers buying bundled options from broadband providers rather than from the open Internet market place.
"This is a sea change in the way that content is delivered by ISPs. It is essentially them saying: 'Rather than delivering whatever content is on the internet as best we can, here are our services that we will deliver through our own network.'
This would reduce competition and take investment away from internet companies - that would be bad for everyone."Jim Killock, Open Rights Group
The 'Content Connect' system is a product of BT Wholesale and is an option to providers who use BT's 21st Century Network through WBC (Wholesale Broadband Connect) or WBMC (Wholesale Broadband Managed Connect). The idea is to reduce costs by providing better efficiencies to providers so that they can deliver video content more cheaply by it coming direct from BT wholesale's network at the BRAS. This will also help reduce load on the ISPs backhaul pipes and Internet connectivity. Trials of the system saw it redirecting trial users to BT's content network for BBC iPlayer videos. There could also be interesting opportunities that could allow this to deliver content over multicast.
With a large chunk of Internet traffic these days being video, it can be seen why this will benefit broadband providers and allow them to offer better quality services. Many broadband providers can and do already offer content direct from their network (through the likes of Akamai) and have the ability to move this direct down to equipment housed in the telephone exchange if they see this to be efficient. Content Connect allows smaller providers the ability to move content closer in a similar way.
One option this would bring is to allow a way of bolting a TV network on top of pre-existing Internet connections (much like BT Vision), to create the equivalent of a Virgin Media style TV service, and with YouView to launch later this year, there is a ready market available for this option. Net-neutrality campaigners may have gone perhaps too far in their claims that this will lead to a two-tiered Internet. The market is always adapting and this is about bring new services to users efficiently rather than stifling competition.