09 February 2008

The WWW and the Market State

Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End
By Adam Cohen


The World Wide Web is the most democratic mass medium there has ever been. Freedom of the press, as the saying goes, belongs only to those who own one. Radio and television are controlled by those rich enough to buy a broadcast license. But anyone with an Internet-connected computer can reach out to a potential audience of billions.

This democratic Web did not just happen. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, envisioned a platform on which everyone in the world could communicate on an equal basis. But his vision is being threatened by telecommunications and cable companies, and other Internet service providers, that want to impose a new system of fees that could create a hierarchy of Web sites. Major corporate sites would be able to pay the new fees, while little-guy sites could be shut out.

Sir Tim, who keeps a low profile, has begun speaking out in favor of "net neutrality," rules requiring that all Web sites remain equal on the Web. Corporations that stand to make billions if they can push tiered pricing through have put together a slick lobbying and marketing campaign.

Last year, the chief executive of what is now AT&T sent shock waves through cyberspace when he asked why Web sites should be able to "use my pipes free." Internet service providers would like to be able to charge Web sites for access to their customers. Web sites that could not pay the new fees would be accessible at a slower speed, or perhaps not be accessible at all.

The companies fighting net neutrality have been waging a misleading campaign, with the slogan "hands off the Internet," that tries to look like a grass-roots effort to protect the Internet in its current form. What they actually favor is stopping the government from protecting the Internet, so they can get their own hands on it.

Sir Tim argues that service providers may be hurting themselves by pushing for tiered pricing. The Internet's extraordinary growth has been fueled by the limitless vistas the Web offers surfers, bloggers and downloaders. Customers who are used to the robust, democratic Web may not pay for one that is restricted to wealthy corporate content providers.

"That's not what we call Internet at all," says Sir Tim. "That's what we call cable TV."

Full NYT Article

1 comment:

ALLSovereign said...

It is my understanding that Sir Tim Berners-Lee favors marking website with certificates as to their worthiness of data. He favors Net Censorship, the Police State and can't wait for both to govern the web.