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Japan's NTT tests TV service: A Net neutrality debate waiting to happen

NTT's NGN service will deliver the best TV signal to those who pay the premium. The picture gets a bit crackly for the budget-minded.

TOKYO--Here's something for those of you who get all bent out of shape about Net neutrality.

Japanese telecommunications giant NTT Group is in the midst of preparing its Next Generation Network, or NGN. NGN promises to marry the versatility of the Internet with the reliability of the wired phone network. The company hopes to achieve nationwide coverage by 2010. Speeds will range from 30 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second. The company didn't narrow it down further, but in any event the service will be faster than current DSL.

NGN will be used for a lot of stuff: to deliver images from security cameras to your home or office, carry high-quality VoiP calls, deliver on-demand movies, etc.

The company, however, will also have priority pricing. If you pay for the highest quality of service, you will get unimpeded service for digital TV delivery. If you are cheaper, and you don't pay for premium service, you might experience a few blips on the screen if a lot of your neighbors are tuning in.

NTT showed off how this might work to a group of reporters visiting its technology showcase center in the Otemachi section of Tokyo. When a third TV came on line, two screens with priority service continued to have great connections. A third began to crackle occasionally.

Priority service drives Net neutrality fans nuts because companies get to offer better service to those who pay for it. Since the service isn't rolled out in Japan yet, it's hard to say what the consumer reaction will be or how NTT will ultimately offer its services. But you could see some people getting upset if they sense unfairness or overreaching.

Speaking of demos, NTT also showed off a video-conferencing application but the voice-to-image synchronization was a bit off. Well, it's not 2010 yet.