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Never stop fighting for net neutrality

16 сентября 2010

Companies, service providers and governments might be keen to circumvent net neutrality, but the world has a lot to lose if it does not fight against manipulating access to the Internet, according the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee.

"We can never rest from fighting for... the neutrality of the underlying network," said Berners-Lee on Wednesday, speaking at Nokia World 2010.

"We assume... that you can get any page [on the Internet]... because that's how it's always been, and that's why the Internet has flourished," he said.

However, some companies would love to be able to limit access, he warned, giving the example of a company that sells films online that "would like to mysteriously slow down your access to other people's movies," thereby encouraging users back to its own site.

Similarly, a provider of telecoms services might seek to block or slow down VoIP services.

"It's not just companies, it's [also] countries," he went on, noting that some governments would be keen to slow access to certain political sites, for example.

"The moment you let that net neutrality go, then think what you lose. You lose the Web as it is. You lose the fact that you can click on a link and go anywhere. You lose something essential," he said.

The lack of network neutrality would pose a serious block to innovation, Berners-Lee explained, since innovators at present can set themselves up with a domain name and see their ideas or business spread.

"You don't have to register your server. You don't have to check in and pay money to every cellphone operator to make sure people can get to your Website," he said. "That is really, really important for the future."

Berners-Lee's comments came as he shared his concerns on the online world of today.

Alongside the dangers of losing net neutrality, Berners-Lee also flagged privacy as a key area that companies and end-users should pay attention to.

"Social networking sites are not the only things to have this issue," he said.

As location-based services and applications grow, service providers need to make it easy for end-users to understand exactly what information they are giving away, he said. "It's not just location information," but rather information on where a person is at a particular time.


"It's not always obvious from one piece of information you are giving away that you're also implicitly giving away other information," he noted.

Berners-Lee also suggested that companies should have systems in place to help them become accountable for customer information.

For example, customers often share their address with a vendor for delivery purposes, but would not necessarily want that information used for profiling or in other ways.

"Responsible companies will end up building systems which do respect users," Berner-Lee believes, since that respect is necessary if a company wants to retain its customers.

"People [in developing countries] need to get onto the Web," said Berners-Lee at Nokia World on Wednesday, emphasising that while much has been done to extend communications network coverage and reduce the cost of Internet-capable phones, customers are being priced out of the market when it comes to data tariffs.

"I'd like to see people enrolled in the cheap data plan by default," he said.

"80% of the population of the planet has [mobile] signal where they live," and low-cost handsets are available, he said. "Your $10 phone now has a Web browser, which is a very important step," but it means little if the cost of a data plan pushes a user's monthly spend from $5 to $60.

Operators still see data users as "the executive class," Berners-Lee said, adding that in some cases the situation is exacerbated by governments who see data as a luxury and levy additional taxes on it.

"You can do a very large amount with very small bandwidth... What does it cost to give a lot of people very, very cheap, maybe free, very low bandwidth as data?" he asked. He noted that at present people in emerging markets use SMS, which is the most expensive way of sending bits and is highly constraining for developers.

"I'd like them to get [data] for free," just at very low bandwidth, he said. And added, for the benefit of the operators in the room: "They'll get hooked and maybe there will be upsell."

Источник: Total Telecom

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