Berners-Lee calls for preservation of net neutrality

Darren Allan

April 20, 2011

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been talking net neutrality, and stressing the importance of the concept.

A controversial subject in both the US and the UK over the last year, net neutrality is the principle of keeping an open Internet, where all traffic is treated fairly and equally.

As opposed to the creation of “fast lanes” where higher paying consumers and content providers can fork out for a smoother and quicker service.

That’s an idea that last November, Ed Vaizey appeared to support, but then he did a quick U-turn and declared that his “first and overriding priority is an open Internet where consumers have access to all legal content.”

At the time Vaizey said he thought “heavy handed regulation” was unnecessary, but Sir Tim Berners-Lee isn’t so sure.

Currently Sir Tim is engaged in brokering agreements between ISPs and content providers such as Skype and iPlayer in the hopes that a self-regulatory solution can be achieved.

However, he told the BBC in no uncertain terms that if this initiative failed – and thus far progress “has been slow” – then the government should act.

He told the Beeb: “If it fails the government has to be absolutely ready to legislate. It may be that the openness of the internet, we should just put into law.”

Although, as Professor William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute notes, letting the government in to legislate the net could be a dangerous move, inviting potential further measures such as the imposition of restrictions and controls.

We certainly wouldn’t want to go there, and can see that danger.

According to a recent report, the UK is currently fifth in a global table of countries with the most Internet freedom. We’re behind the US, Germany, Australia and Estonia, losing points mainly thanks to last year’s ridiculously rushed-through Digital Economy Act.


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