ISPs post-net-neutrality world is built on bribes

Published: Sat, 20 Sep 2014 by Rad

Now the father of the World Wide Web is up in arms about the state of net neutrality in the United States. Sir Tim Bernes-Lee railed against the telecommunications companies' push to introduce differential pricing for internet content – such as charging subscribers more to watch YouTube. Such practices were counter-intuitive to the idea of an open internet, and would mean internet firms would shun the US as a market, he warned.

Sir Tim documented what was to become the World Wide Web with the submission of a proposal specifying a set of technologies that would make the Internet truly accessible and useful to people. Despite initial setbacks and with perseverance, by October of 1990, he had specified the three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s Web (and which you may have seen appear on parts of your Web browser): HTML, URI, and HTTP.

He also wrote the first Web page editor/browser (“WorldWideWeb”) and the first Web server (“‪httpd“). By the end of 1990, the first Web page was served. By 1991, people outside of ‪CERN joined the new Web community, and in April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web technology would be available for anyone to use on a royalty-free basis.

He pointed out that in 1991 he didn't have to ask ISPs for permission to add new features when he plugged his NeXT cube into a phone line and made it the first web server. Trying to bolt on commercial restrictions after the fact is anti-competitive, he argued, and would only harm the internet in the long term.

"If businesses are to move here and start here, rather than start in Europe or Brazil or Australia, they're going to look around and make sure, 'Oh, does the power stay up?' And they'll look for other things.'Is the Internet open?' Will they have to effectively bribe their ISPs to start a new service? That's what it looks like from the outside. It's bribery," he said.

Sir Tim said the tactics used by the anti-net neutrality campaigners were disingenuous to say the least. Politicians are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of the issue and were falling back on tired old canards, he opined.

US watchdog the Federal Communications Commission is mulling over millions of emails sent in during its deliberations about how the internet will be run in the US in future. While the vast majority of public comment has been in favor of an open internet, in which every packet is treated equally, there are still fears that the submissions by ISPs – which want compensation for carrying heavy traffic – will carry more political weight.

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