Internet Congestion Charge to come to UK soon?

Britain could be the next battleground in the conflict opposing content providers to telecommunication service providers in what has been known as the Net neutrality debate.

This is about telecommunication companies wanting to grab a larger (and in their view, fairer) share of the revenue which flows in their pipes. An analogy would be Thames Water trying to charge Coca Cola more because the latter makes fat profits on water flowing through Thames Water pipes.

David Tansley, a specialist for UK consulting group Deloitte says that this will happen sooner or later. The idea of converting today's internet to a slow and fast version has been pushed forward by telecommunication giants who want to get a bigger chunk of the profits that companies like Microsoft and Google are getting.

He argues that, like drinkable water, bandwidth is a finite resource that obeys the laws of demand and supply. Mr Tansley took the analogy of the post office which offers first class and second class mail to explain why the two (or indeed multi) tiered internet structure should be put in place.

Service providers have been keen to compare Internet pipes to tubes which are going to be clogged if there are too many users downloading too many things simultaneously. But questions remain? Will telcos pool together to form a cartel and charge a fixed price? What will happen to people visiting from outside a country? Will it be the death of VOiP?

As the Guardian's technology correspondent points out, the two tiered structure might sound the death knell of a flourishing ecosystem that will only benefit a handful of powerful companies like AOL Time Warner or Microsoft.