20 Comments

Summary:

Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, so to speak, weighs in on Net Neutrality. When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone’s permission. [3]. The new application rolled out over the existing Internet without modifying it. I tried […]

Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, so to speak, weighs in on Net Neutrality.

When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone’s permission. [3]. The new application rolled out over the existing Internet without modifying it. I tried then, and many people still work very hard still, to make the Web technology, in turn, a universal, neutral, platform. It must not discriminate against particular hardware, software, underlying network, language, culture, disability, or against particular types of data.

The Internet is increasingly becoming the dominant medium binding us. The neutral communications medium is essential to our society. It is the basis of a fair competitive market economy.

More than anyone, I think it is time for start-ups and their backers to take stock of what the loss of network neutrality would mean to their business. Win or lose, this one has business implications, more so for many of the smaller corporate citizens.

  1. Om, the WSJ has run several editorials backing non neutrality. I was wondering how you would respond to them. Their basic premise is that market forces should decide how the net operates.

    Share
  2. What is the source of the Berners-Lee quote?

    Share
  3. Can someone please explain “network neutrality” in plain English?

    Share
  4. The “network neutrality” issue is pretty well explained in this Slate article:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2140850/

    Share
  5. Om,
    Great to see you again last night with Niall at Pakwan, hopefully we can send some advertising your way soon.

        I totally agree with you that the net has to stay neutral.  But I am also concerned about the idea of letting the government start to regulate how the net works.  It scares the hell out of me to think of all the damage politicians could do if they started writing laws about what we can and cannot do with and on the internet.  Even though we think they are just writing a simple law ensuring the telcos are unable to discriminate, who knows what they will do once they start drafting something. I have never see legislation without horrible unintended consequences.
    
       It seems like this might be letting the fox into the hen house.
    

    Zach

    Share
  6. The government already writes laws that say what you can and can’t do with the Internet. Don’t believe it? Try launching a denial-of-service attack against, say, the IRS. Or even Amazon.com. Better yet, ask for money to make it stop. The FBI will rapidly show up on your doorstep with appropriate warrants.

    But for some reason, free market advocates seem to have a problem with preventing the carriers from playing exactly this same type of game. What the carriers plan to do is to give priority to customers who pay them for a premium service. All other traffic will be de-prioritized behind said customers. If there is enough premium traffic, that will constitute a denial of service to existing customers who have service agreements guaranteeing them best-effort delivery; instead, that will become best-effort-after-premium-service delivery. Of course, you have a way out: pay the premium rate, just like in the above extortion case. The only difference is that the carriers want immunity from prosecution — and in fact Congress’ blessing — for their denial of service.

    Om is right. This is going to have huge implications for all types of businesses. The financial services and banking industry is just now waking up to the implications, and they may start lobbying against it (see the current Wired article for details). Let’s hope that the topic gets a real debate and isn’t just rammed through the Congress.

    Share
  7. What the carriers plan to do is to give priority to customers who pay them for a premium service.

    Shocking. This will clearly be the end of our democracy. Just think what would happen if other business tried to do this sort of thing for postal mail, airline travel, baseball seating, and the like. There would be no end to the robbery.

    I’m going to IM Dennis Kucinich about this fascist plot right now.

    Share
  8. This will clearly be the end of our democracy.

    When you give up the only platform we have to communicate with each other on an equal footing — to the highest bidder, the freedom of all of us is diminished.

    And you people out there worried about the regulatory authority of the government in determining “how the net works”, just remember that’s been the standard mode of operation until about a year ago when the FCC shirked its responsibility and said it would no longer require Telco’s to be “common carriers” on their DSL services. Such protections have been the norm until now.

    Even if that weren’t the case, it’s easy to recall that when restrictions were lifted in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the inevitable conglomeration of broadcast radio & tv took place, the conglomerates pointed to the Internet as proof that there still was variety of opinion in the market place.

    Lastly, when I hear “market forces should decide”, I just want to laugh. It’s precisely because there is no competition and because the Telcos are in a monopoly situation, that they can even think of introducing this scheme for bandwidth discrimination.

    The only way you could get the market to work is if you required the Telco monopolies to allow independent vendors of DSL to use their pipes. Where this requirement for competition exists — say, in a number of European countries — the DSL is way better and cheaper.

    Share
  9. Tim Berners-Lee? I thought that Al Gore invented the internet…

    Share
  10. Om,

    Your unwillingness to link to the source of your quotes (not just in this post) make you considerably less useful in the debate than you could otherwise be.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post