Sunday, March 18, 2007

Berners Lee, Future of Web, US House of Reps

Tim Berners Lee- Testimony on the Future of the Web to Hearing of US House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Telecoms and the Internet, 1 March 2007:

  • "The special care we extend to the World Wide Web comes from a long tradition that democracies have of protecting their vital communications channels. (...) We nurture and protect our information networks because they stand at the core of our economies, our democracies, and our cultural and personal lives. Of course, the imperative to assure the free flow of information has only grown given the global nature of the Internet and Web."

  • "...the Web is just one of the many applications that run on top of the Internet. As with other Internet applications such as email, instant messaging, and voice over IP, the Web would have been impossible to create without the Internet itself operating as an open platform."

  • "Open infrastructures become general purpose infrastructure on top of which large scale social systems are built. The Web takes this openness one step further and enables a continually evolving set of new services that combine information at a global scale previously not possible."

* Copy of Berners Lee testimony available here:
CSAIL Decentralized Information Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
* also a copy with blog editorial comment here

* See also official government record here:
HEARING | "Digital Future of the United States: Part I -- The Future of the World Wide Web"
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet | Thursday, March 1, 2007
* and copy with editorial comment here



* Tim Berners Lee

* Google blog | Vint Cerf speaks out on net neutrality | 11/08/2005 01:21:00 PM | Vinton Cerf
Chief Internet Evangelist
Google Inc.

(...) The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an explosion of offerings – from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to blogging – that might never have evolved had central control of the network been required by design.

* google blog |Standing on the shoulders of this giant | 11/04/2005 01:55:00 PM (...)

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given in the United States, and our own Vint Cerf has been recognized with this honor. He and Robert Kahn will be recognized in a White House ceremony next Wednesday.

Together, Vint and Bob designed the architecture and protocols 30+ years ago that are used today to implement and operate the Internet. The White House statement puts it succinctly: "Dr. Cerf and Dr. Kahn have been at the forefront of a digital revolution that has transformed global commerce, communication, and entertainment."

Vint and Bob join an impressive list of winners, including Alan Greenspan, Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, Frank Robinson and Paul Rusesabagina. The official release is here.

We couldn't be more pleased for this recognition Vint is receiving on behalf of the vast Internet community that has realized the aspirations that he and Bob had so long ago.

* | House Ignores Public, Sells Out the Internet

Last night’s House vote against an amendment that would make Net Neutrality enforceable is the result of swarming lobbyists and a multi-million-dollar media campaign by telephone companies that want Congress to hand them control of the Internet (...).

* | Net Neutrality Saved in AT&T Merger Coalition looks to new Congress to Make Net Neutrality the Law

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2006 — The Federal Communications Commission today approved the $85 billion merger of AT&T and BellSouth. In a victory for advocates of Internet freedom, the terms of the deal include strict protections for Network Neutrality and concessions that will lower the cost of Internet access.

(...) "This merger agreement is a milestone that may one day be remembered as an important moment in Internet history," said Tim Wu a professor at Columbia University Law School and charter member of the Coalition. "Most notable is the agreement's striking inclusion of the first strong Network Neutrality language yet seen in any broadband regulations."

"AT&T capitulated to supporters of an open and neutral Internet," added Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, which coordinates the Coalition. "The agreement once and for all puts to rest the bogus argument that no one can define Net Neutrality. The FCC just did it, and the sky hasn't fallen. The conditions placed on this merger will show irrefutably that Net Neutrality and phone company profits are not mutually exclusive."

Late Thursday night, AT&T filed a "letter of commitment" with the FCC in which it agreed to strict Net Neutrality requirements for at least 24 months. According to the letter, AT&T "commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service" and pledges "not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination."

"This means AT&T can't sell Yahoo or CNN priority access to its customers over its broadband networks," Wu explained, "or favor those content sources over unaffiliated blogs or search engines."

Professor Wu's detailed analysis of the merger condition is available at

AT&T's concessions followed heated negotiations with FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein. Their firm stance in placing conditions on the deal was backed by tens of thousands of letters from citizens who demanded that the FCC block any merger without Net Neutrality.

"AT&T showed no interest in allowing Net Neutrality to be included in this deal," said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. "But their feet were held to the fire and, in the end, they had no choice but to accept terms that will protect the Internet and keep a bad merger from being much, much worse."

The deal also requires AT&T to guarantee low-cost DSL access for 30 months.

"This merger endangers long-term competition," said Gene Kimmelman, vice president of Consumers Union. "But by making AT&T's high-speed Internet service available to consumers for less than $20 a month, the FCC opens the door for consumers to connect low-cost Internet telephone service to broadband and thereby pressure the market to keep delivering lower prices for all telecom services. And those consumers who cannot afford DSL today, or who cannot afford to pay AT&T's high package fees for combined Internet and phone service, can now get fast connections to the Internet at a reasonable price."

"Today's decision makes the best of a bad situation by minimizing potential harm to the public interest," added Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Media Access Project. "There will be more competition and more innovation than would have been the case without the conditions imposed today by the FCC. In addition, this agreement requires AT&T to divest a large swath of wireless spectrum. While the future of this WiMax technology remains unclear, it has the potential to offer wireless broadband competition over the next few years."

The Net Neutrality provisions will last for at least 24 months — or until Congress passes meaningful, enforceable Net Neutrality under the law. Internet freedom advocates at the Coalition pledged to push the new Congress for legislation when it convenes next week.

"Today's merger agreement sets the bar for the entire industry," Scott said. "We are no longer having a debate about whether Net Neutrality should be the law of the land. We are having a debate about how and when."

Savethe | FAQ net neutrality


What is this about?

This is about Internet freedom. "Network Neutrality" -- the First Amendment of the Internet -- ensures that the public can view the smallest blog just as easily as the largest corporate Web site by preventing Internet companies like AT&T from rigging the playing field for only the highest-paying sites.

But Internet providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress to gut Net Neutrality. If Congress doesn't take action now to implement meaningful Net Neutrality provisions, the future of the Internet is at risk.

To learn more, read Network Neutrality: Fact vs. Fiction

What is Network Neutrality?

Network Neutrality — or "Net Neutrality" for short — is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet.

Net Neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service. Net Neutrality prevents the companies that control the wires from discriminating against content based on its source or ownership.

Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It's why the Internet has become an unrivaled environment for open communications, civic involvement and free speech.

Learn more in Net Neutrality 101.

Who wants to get rid of Net Neutrality?

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors.

These companies have a new vision for the Internet. Instead of an even playing field, they want to reserve express lanes for their own content and services — or those from big corporations that can afford the steep tolls — and leave the rest of us on a winding dirt road.

What's at stake?

Decisions being made now will shape the future of the Internet for a generation. Before long, all media — TV, phone and the Web — will come to your home via the same broadband connection. The dispute over Net Neutrality is about who'll control access to new and emerging technologies.

On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control — deciding between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network. There's no middleman. But without Net Neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.

The Internet has always been driven by innovation. Web sites and services succeeded or failed on their own merit. Without Net Neutrality, decisions now made collectively by millions of users will be made in corporate boardrooms. The choice we face now is whether we can choose the content and services we want, or whether the broadband barons will choose for us.


* |House Leaders Tell FCC to Support Net Neutrality March 15th, 2007 by tkarr

Members of the House on Wednesday pressed FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to take a stronger position in support of Net Neutrality, calling it “indispensable policy for the future of the Internet.”

Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) promised that this would be just one among many hearings focused on the Net Neutrality issue.

Markey, who authored a pro-Net Neutrality bill in 2006, has pledged to protect Net Neutrality in the 110th Congress.

Over the course of Wednesday’s often contentious hearing, representatives grilled the FCC chairman on a range of issues – from caps on cable ownership to an overhaul of the Universal Service Fund – but they frequently returned to the issue of Net Neutrality as fundamentally important to the progress of the Internet. (...)

* |

Web Inventor Tells Congress: Net Neutrality a Priority

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.

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.”

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