By Luke Ming Flanagan
When you get an e-mail on the eve of a number of crucial votes in the European Parliament on the freedom of access to the internet from the person who invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, you pay attention. In that e-mail, sent on Monday, Tim says the following:
‘Tomorrow, members of the European Parliament face a key vote on the future of the internet. The proposed regulations in front of them are weak and confusing. To keep Europe innovative and competitive, it is essential that MEPs adopt amendments for stronger “network neutrality” (net neutrality).
‘When I designed the World Wide Web, I built it as an open platform to foster collaboration and innovation. The Web evolved into a powerful and ubiquitous platform because I was able to build it on an open network that treated all packets of information equally. This principle of net neutrality has kept the Internet a free and open space since its inception.
‘Since then, the Internet has become the central infrastructure of our time — every sector of our economy and democracy depends on it.’
He then advises MEPs on how they should vote on the various proposals and amendments, and finishes by saying:
‘If adopted as currently written, these rules will threaten innovation, free speech and privacy, and compromise Europe’s ability to lead in the digital economy. To underpin continued economic growth and social progress, Europeans deserve the same strong net neutrality protections similar to those recently secured in the United States. As a European, and the inventor of the Web, I urge politicians to heed this call.’
Some of us did, and in fact I was one of those who co-signed the many Amendments for which Tim was urging us to vote. Others, however, did not, and so what we now have in the EU is an industry-influenced watered-down version of what we should have had, loop-holes galore inserted through which internet providers can now drive their coach-and-four, and no ‘net neutrality’ – nay, not even a definition.
As with so much that is done in this Parliament, so much that is done also in our own Parliament in Dublin, this will be presented by the media as a great victory for ‘the consumer’. It is not.
It is in fact a great victory for the internet providers, who have managed to use their influence to get enough votes in this Parliament to row back on almost everything that had been agreed in April 2014 by the previous Parliament.
I’m not posting this to depress people; I’m posting it so you know who’s fighting for your interests out here. And so you know who is not.