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Internet service providers (ISPs) could potentially lose customers if they move away from the principle of net neutrality, a new study has suggested.

Research conducted by ISPreview.co.uk indicates that many consumers would consider switching broadband provider if their ISP starts to prioritise some internet traffic.

The debate over the construction of a two-tier internet has been rumbling on for some years, with advocates claiming it could help improve premium broadband services.

However, critics of this approach believe that an end to net neutrality could jeopardise the existence of the web as we know it.

With this in mind, ISPreview.co.uk's latest findings are sure to give ISPs food for thought.

The news provider found that 93.5 per cent of respondents would be angry if their broadband provider limited access to certain online services, according to their particular bandwidth requirements.

Just 1.7 per cent of consumers said they would welcome such a move, with the remaining 4.6 per cent claiming to be indifferent.

Some 90.9 per cent of internet users surveyed said they would consider switching broadband provider if restrictions were placed on their internet access, while a further 6.7 per cent said this was a possible course of action.

And with the vast majority (72.9 per cent) of interviewees claiming to be aware of the net neutrality debate, these are statistics which ISPs cannot necessarily shrug off.

So unless ISPs decided en masse to embrace the principles of a tiered internet, the chances are that adopters could see a loss of subscribers.

Among the highest profile supporters of net neutrality is the original founder of the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Speaking in September 2010, he commented: "The moment you let net neutrality go, you lose the web as it is.

"You lose something essential, the fact that any innovator can dream up an idea and set up a website at some random place and let it just take off from word of mouth."

In April 2011, Mr Berners-Lee suggested that regulation may be needed to protect online equality, as ISP self-regulation no longer provides an adequate defence.

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