Thursday, March 01, 2007

Web Inventor: Net Neutrality A Priority for Congress

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web told U.S. House members Thursday that protecting Net Neutrality should be one of their top priorities.

Testifying today before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Sir Tim called upon Congress to ensure that the explosion of innovations happening on the Web not be slowed by limits imposed by Internet gatekeepers.

TBL Testimony

Listen to Sir Tim's Testimony

His prescription for the Web's continued success includes the preservation of Net Neutrality and the thwarting of new royalty systems that would "constrain what people can read or publish online."

Net Neutrality an 'Obvious Requirement'

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon) asked Berners-Lee to prioritize the one or two policy priorities that Congress should solve in the short term.

"I hope that the Net Neutrality thing is a short-term thing," Sir Tim replied. "In most of the world people regard Net Neutrality as such an obvious requirement that I hope [the solution] will be short term."

"The Web took off in all its glory because it was a royalty-free infrastructure," Sir Tim said, reiterating his earlier warnings against threats by phone and cable companies to impose new tolls on Web traffic.

Freeing Up the Connection

"Non-discriminatory Internet provision is very important for a society based on the World Wide Web. I think that is very important," Sir Tim said in response to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-California), who asked for an explanation of how an absence of non-discrimination rules would impact the development of the Web.

"The communication medium is so important to society we have to give it a special treatment … I will always be in favor of erring on the side of keeping the medium to be the blank sheet -- of allowing me, if I connect to the Internet, to connect to everyone else."

In June 2006, Sir Lee said that he was concerned about threats by phone and cable companies to constrain access to Web sites that don't pay their extortionate fees:
"When I invented the Web, I didn't have to ask anyone's permission," he said. "Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA."
During his testimony today Sir Lee, who is now based in the US as a senior researcher at MIT, expanded upon these concerns from the perspective of a Web-based business:

"If we had a situation in which the U.S. had serious flaws in its Net Neutrality ... and [a country in] Europe did have Net Neutrality and I were trying to start a company, then I would be very tempted to move."

The Human Web

Subcommittee chair Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked Sir Lee to elaborate on his concerns about royalty-free proposals for the Web and how such royalties might have affected his work had they been a part of his original design for the Web.

Lee replied:
"Chairman Markey let me assure you that if I had charged from the word go, per click, the World Wide Web would not have taken off at all. We would not be here talking about it.

"Had there been a fee there would have been no investment. The investment people made in the Web was made by volunteers in their garages late at night. … I myself was allowed by my boss to do it in spare time. People did it in their ten percent time. And if there had been any pay-per-click, if there had been any form of fee, they would not have gone anywhere near it."
>> Read Subcommittee Vice Chair Mike Doyle's opening remarks

>> My Original Post at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The net as we know it is certainly under threat from corporate influence or takeover through monopoly of the wires. But the solution of legislation is wanting to say the least. Is it going to anything more than a fee-fest for lawyers and lobbyists?

Additionally, the internet is global are we going to try and get every government in the world to legislate in the same way?

The only way to save the internet is to take ownership of the "wires" that connect us on a collective basis and own them like we own the open source projects like Apache, Firefox etc. This sounds insane, but an initiative has been launched to do just that.

Initial info can be found