The Government plans to abandon one of the founding principles of the internet by letting service providers charge money for a "two-tier" service prioritising some websites.

Net neutrality – the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally – is one of the cornerstones of cyberspace and ensures that providers like BT, Virgin or Sky give a simple blog the same level of access as a website for a major corporation or institution. But in a speech yesterday the Communications minister Ed Vaizey signalled the Government's intention to abandon net neutrality in favour of a system where providers could charge money for a better and quicker service.

The proposals would allow internet service providers (ISPs) to effectively create "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" for the internet, with websites only having access to the fast lane if they pay.

Campaigners have attacked the proposals as amounting to the death of democracy online but the Government says the changes are needed for future internet upgrades.