Web daddy Tim Berners-Lee calls for net neutrality in Europe

You want growth? Then keep it open, says Knight of the Web Realm

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, HTTP server visionary and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, has penned a blog post on the European Commission web site titled Net neutrality is critical for Europe's future.

Sir Tim defines net neutrality as “ the principle that each ‘packet’ of data must be treated equally by the network” and says he thinks that means “there should be no restrictions based on economic motivations.”

“A packet of data - an email, a webpage or a video call - should be treated the same no matter whether it is sent by a small NGO in Ljubljana or a FTSE 100 company in London,” the post suggests.

Berners-Lee cites Dutch research (PDF) into net neutrality to support his argument that “net neutrality stimulates a virtuous circle between more competition, lower prices, higher connectivity and greater innovation, benefiting all citizens, as well as internet companies large and small.”

He goes on to argue that explicit protection of net neutrality is needed to prevent to “telcos and online service operators” becoming “gatekeepers - able to handpick winners and the losers in the market and to favour their own sites, services and platforms over those of others.”

“This would crowd out competition and snuff out innovative new services before they even see the light of day,” he argues, offering this vision to back up his reasoning:

“Imagine if a new start-up or service provider had to ask permission from or pay a fee to a competitor before they could attract customers? This sounds a lot like bribery or market abuse - but it is exactly the type of scenario we would see if we depart from net neutrality.”

Berners-Lee concludes by arguing that net neutrality boils down to a social justice issue, with Europe-wide protections “ultimately enabling Europe to harvest the full potential of the open Internet as a driver for economic growth and social progress.”

Unsurprisingly, he therefore urges readers to let EU officials know they're keen on net neutrality and want it sooner rather than later.

Berners-Lee's opinions carry plenty of weight and the European Commission clearly enjoys having him throw it around on its web site. Whether his gravitas can exert a pull on policy remains to be seen. ®

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