Canadian law lecturer Michael Geist has written a rather worrying but very interesting article highlighting the fact that internet service providers (ISPs) are looking to give priority to their own network traffic over that of their competitors. There's a substantial quote below but do check out the full article which originally appeared in the Toronto Star yesterday.

Websites, e-commerce companies, and other innovators have also relied on network neutrality, secure in the knowledge that the network treats all companies, whether big or small, equally. That approach enables those with the best products and services, not the deepest pockets, to emerge as the market winners.

Internet users have similarly benefited from the network neutrality principle. They enjoy access to greater choice in goods, services, and content regardless of which ISP they use. While ISPs may compete based on price, service, or speed, they have not significantly differentiated their services based on availability of Internet content or applications, which remains the same for all.

Canadian cable provider Shaw now offers a premium VoIP service that promises to prioritize Internet telephony traffic for a monthly fee. The potential implications of such a service are obvious – the use of competing services will require a supplemental fee, while Shaw will be free to waive the charge for its own service.

Other ISPs have gone even further. Quebec-based Videotron has expressed great hostility toward third party Internet telephony providers such as Skype, labeling them "parasitic" and foreshadowing the potential for future action. In the U.S., at least one ISP briefly blocked competing Internet telephony traffic until the Federal Communications Commission ordered it to cease the practice.

These developments should send alarm bells to Internet companies, users, and regulators. While prioritizing websites or applications may hold some economic promise, the lack of broadband competition and insufficient transparency surrounding these actions will rightly lead to growing calls for regulatory reform that grants legal protection for the principle of network neutrality.