BT Wholesale is to allow internet service providers (ISPs) using its network to tier the delivery of certain services from content service providers (CSPs) by charging for improved delivery.
The new offering will be launched in the spring on BT Wholesale's Content Connect platform, and is designed to help BT Retail and other ISPs cope with rising traffic demands from sites such as YouTube and the BBC iPlayer.
Content Connect will allow ISPs to "earn revenue from delivering internet video from CSPs", according to BT, while CSPs can "have their content delivered at a higher quality of service".
However, the move has been criticised by Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock, who argued that it undermines the inherent openness of the internet by giving ISPs more control at the expense of the companies creating the content.
"We are talking about ISPs competing with the internet for content delivery. Whether films, music or gaming services, the idea is that ISPs will deliver this stuff better and more reliably than the internet," he said.
"The result could be a fundamental shift away from buying services from the internet to bundled services from ISPs, which would reduce competition and take investment away from internet companies. That would be bad for everyone."
BT defended the move, insisting that, while the company supports the concept of net neutrality, it believes that ISPs should be able to strike commercial deals with content owners if they want higher quality or assured service delivery.
"Content Connect will not create a two-tier internet, but will simply offer service providers the option of differentiating their broadband offering through enhanced content delivery," said BT in a statement.
"To improve the quality of video content consumed by customers, service providers can either opt for BT's new content distribution network, or can choose to improve the quality of the viewing experience by offering faster download speeds."
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