Republicans Join the Fight Against Net Neutrality Repeal as Inventor of the Web Tells the FCC: You Don’t Understand How the Internet Works


Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, Steve Wozniak, Apple's cofounder, and a number of other pioneers and leaders of the industry are calling on Congress and the FCC to cancel the vote on net neutrality repeal tomorrow, saying that the repeal is “based on a flawed and factually inaccurate” understanding of how the internet works. Earlier this week, they wrote an open letter to lawmakers with oversight of the Federal Communications Commission:

We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood.

We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order.

Following this open letter, Berners-Lee has now posted another piece saying this vote would fatally undermine the internet as we know it.

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"When I invented the World Wide Web in 1989, I didn’t have to pay a fee, or ask anyone for permission to make it available over the internet," he wrote (emphasis is ours). "All I had to do was write a new app and plug my computer into the net."

"If US net neutrality rules are repealed, future innovators will have to first negotiate with each ISP to get their new product onto an internet package. That means no more permissionless space for innovation. ISPs will have the power to decide which websites you can access and at what speed each will load. In other words, they’ll be able to decide which companies succeed online, which voices are heard  -  and which are silenced."

He also brings an important point to focus that the connectivity and the content markets have remained independent so far, which has been the primary reason why they both have flourished. "But if the US allows the internet to become like the old cable TV model," he said. "With the same firms controlling the cables and the content - competition in both markets will suffer."

"As other countries maintain separate and fiercely competitive markets, America will decline as the world’s chief digital innovator."

ISPs are more capable now than ever before to discriminate traffic online

The director of the World Wide Web Consortium also said that unlike in the early days of the internet when the ISPs lacked the technical capacity to discriminate traffic, they have now "developed the ability and the incentives to discriminate internet traffic to get a cut of the spoils."

"We need rules to keep ISPs focused on what they do best: making access cheaper and faster."

In the open letter to the Congress earlier this week, internet pioneers had linked to a detailed comment (PDF) that documents the flaws and inaccuracies in the FCC's proposed Internet Freedom Order and the Commission's factually inaccurate understanding of the internet.

However, just like the FCC had ignored over 21 million public comments, it did the same with this comment submitted by over 200 tech leaders. "Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained," the letter says.

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"The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet."

Contacting lawmakers might actually help in pushing the FCC to delay the vote on net neutrality repeal

Berners-Lee, Wozniak, Mitchell Baker of Mozilla, Brewster Kahle of Internet Archive, Ronald L Rivest of RSA public-key encryption algorithm, and others are asking the public to call their representatives in the Congress to let them know they will held accountable on this issue, so they call upon Ajit Pai to suspend Thursday’s vote.

These calls are actually working as lawmakers from both sides of the party lines are pushing the FCC to delay the vote. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) sent a letter to the FCC, reminding the Commission of its own statement that a decision of this magnitude should not be made by five unelected individuals, but by the elected representatives.

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) have also released statements expressing skepticism about the repeal, among others from both the parties.

"I want an internet where content businesses grow according to their quality, not their ability to pay to ride in the fast lane," Berners-Lee wrote.

"I want an internet where ideas spread because they’re inspiring, not because they chime with the views of telecoms executives. I want an internet where consumers decide what succeeds online, and where ISPs focus on providing the best connectivity.

If that’s the internet you want - act now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now."

We have previously shared ways you can contact your representatives; you can also head over here to find and contact your rep.

– Relevant: NetNeutrality Is Not a Partisan Issue – Internet Providers Consistently Abused Their Powers Before NN (Brief Timeline)