Dutch internet provider UPC is ushering in a system where users will pay more to access certain types of online services and websites, a clear move away from net neutrality.
The system will cut down users' connection speeds by two-thirds when connecting to bandwidth-intensive services, such as online video, between noon and midnight. The company says the move will allow it to solve network-management problems and provide customers with faster service.
All uses of the internet besides simple web surfing, or HTTP traffic, will see their speeds cut to one third during the time period. Websites that have heavy traffic, like those that host a good deal of video, will also face the restriction.
A spokesperson for the company told British news site V3 that the changes will be instituted in a few weeks, and that they are not yet final.
"[It is] important to know here that the changes are part of our continuous improvement of the network settings, and are not finalized as was assumed [in some press reports]," the spokesperson said. "We want to prevent the excessive internet usage by a very low number of customers — approximately one per cent — causing congestion for the other 99 per cent."
Consumer groups are concerned about the company's brazen move away from net neutrality, where all uses of the internet and all websites are treated equally, and whether other Dutch ISPs will follow its lead.
"This is clearly harmful to the neutrality of the network. It shows bad network management. Legitimate networks divide all bandwidth among all users and, if the network is too small, they should invest in more bandwidth," said Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of consumer group La Quadrature du Net.
"This case determines the future of users' access to the internet. I expect there to be resistance from users and for some to leave the ISP."
The European Parliament has been discussing net neutrality rules this year and is set to resume talks on the topic in September.