Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Web, recently spoke in favor of net neutrality in a blog post on the European Union (EU) Commission's website. In his post, he called net neutrality "critical for Europe's future."
Last year, the EU Parliament managed to pass a strong net neutrality law, which was part of a larger package of laws that also included the elimination of roaming fees in EU countries. One amendment in the net neutrality law defines the term and the principle behind it:
"Net neutrality" means the principle according to which all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, independently of its sender, recipient, type, content, device, service or application.
The law also includes amendments that ban Internet providers from blocking competing services or throttling them. Although the EU net neutrality law allows for "specialized services," it says quite clearly that those services can't be "Internet services" but services that are sold separately from Internet access and can't interfere with the speed of the "regular" Internet. For instance, Internet providers may offer TV services that are delivered digitally through the same Internet cables, but not as part of the "Internet" package.
All in all, the EU was one of the first regions to adopt such clear and strong net neutrality laws. However, the law also needs to be approved by the individual countries inside the EU. Some countries, such as Tim Berners-Lee's own UK, isn't too fond of the idea of a strong net neutrality law. Berners-Lee seems interested in preserving the net neutrality law as is and wants to push the momentum forward for it to be adopted fully by all the EU countries, including UK.
“When I designed the Web, I deliberately built it as a neutral, creative and collaborative space, building on the openness the Internet offered. My vision was that anyone, anywhere in the world could share knowledge and ideas without needing to buy a license or ask permission from myself or any CEO, government department or committee. This openness unleashed a tidal wave of innovation, and it is still powering new breakthroughs in science, commerce, culture and much more besides," said Berners-Lee on the EU Commission's website.
Berners-Lee also discussed the hidden dangers of "positive discrimination," as he called it. He was referring to the idea of letting the Internet providers favor one service over another, which would allow them to become gatekeepers and have too much power over the content on the Internet.
Internet users may be tricked by their Internet providers into agreeing with this positive discrimination, because they could get a certain service for free. Everyone loves free stuff, so it would be hard to resist such an offer, especially if they don't see any immediate danger in it.
However, allowing this could distort the competition in the services market, as most users would just naturally gravitate towards the "free" offer from their Internet provider instead of using a competitor's service. Internet providers would also be the ones to decide winners and losers. This is why Berners-Lee proposed that all countries explicitly ban this sort of behavior from ISPs.
The European Council, which is comprised of the heads of states of individual EU countries, is the entity that has to ultimately adopt the net neutrality law that the EU Parliament has passed. The group will conclude the net neutrality discussions in March 2015. Berners-Lee hopes the public will keep the pressure up to get the Council to accept the strong net neutrality legislation.