A new broadband service being offered by BT risks creating a two-tier internet, according to consumer groups.

Under the new service, BT would give broadband providers the opportunity to charge content owners for high quality video streaming, the Financial Times reported.

This would mean that under the new Content Connect service, video content owners would pay to distribute their material at quality.

Campaigners the Open Rights Group expressed serious concerns that the new network posed a risk to net neutrality, which is the idea that all traffic should be distributed equally.

BT is seeking to capitalise on the fast growth in web video traffic, including YouTube and the BBC iPlayer. It told the FT it rejected the suggestions that its new network would lead to smaller businesses being unable to afford to pay broadband providers to deliver their video content in high quality.

Sally Davis, head of BT Wholesale, said all broadband providers were increasing download speeds, so the basic "over the top" internet video experience was improving. She added that broadband providers could consider offering on-demand prices for specific live videos, such as sports events.

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to introduce rules to ensure network neutrality, but dozens of groups have said the plan does not provide strong enough protection for internet users. The rules aim to prohibit broadband providers from blocking customer access to legal web content and require providers to disclose their network management practices.