My friend and fellow tech writer Tyler Hamilton from the Toronto Star had a great piece in the paper the other day based on an interview with the Father of the Web himself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (hat tip to Rob Hyndman for pointing me to it). Sir Tim said that he was “very concerned” that the big telecom companies were trying to impose tiers of service and other roadblocks that would change the neutrality of the Web. He said:
“It stops being the Net if a supplier of downloaded video pays to connect to a particular set of consumers who are connected to a particular cable company. It would no longer be an open information space.”
Among other things, Sir Tim said he fears a time when Internet access and all that it represents is filtered through the networks of these large telecom players, who then determine what sites and services work best and are therefore the most popular, and even co-operate with operating system makers to determine how the network functions. This would completely change the open nature of the Web, he said.
“The place you buy your shoes has been decided by the search engine, and the search engine was been decided by the browser, which has been decided by the operating system, which has been decided by the computer,” he said. “Then your choice of shoes is dictated by your choice of computer.”
Attempts to incorporate some kind of protection for net neutrality into U.S. legislation have so far had mixed results, and some of the major Internet companies are not impressed. The other Father of the Internet, Vint Cerf, remains concerned about the potential for harm.