3 July 2006

It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes.

Senator Ted Stevens with a jaw dropping speech on how the internet works, in defense of his vote against net neutrality.

Arthur Clarke once said: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and indeed, our senators conceive of the internet as a mysterious metaphysical entity. Normally, I would just discard the ramblings of an uninformed U.S. senator on the topic, but that senator happens to be the chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Yes, it's a gross misunderstanding of what the internet is. Again, this is serious business, as the founder of the web, Tim Berners-Lee has detailed.

Net Neutrality is NOT asking for the internet for free.

Net Neutrality is NOT saying that one shouldn't pay more money for high quality of service. We always have, and we always will.

There have been suggestions that we don't need legislation because we haven't had it. These are nonsense, because in fact we have had net neutrality in the past -- it is only recently that real explicit threats have occurred.

Control of information is hugely powerful. In the US, the threat is that companies control what I can access for commercial reasons. (In China, control is by the government for political reasons.) There is a very strong short-term incentive for a company to grab control of TV distribution over the Internet even though it is against the long-term interests of the industry.

Yes, regulation to keep the Internet open is regulation. And mostly, the Internet thrives on lack of regulation. But some basic values have to be preserved. For example, the market system depends on the rule that you can't photocopy money. Democracy depends on freedom of speech. Freedom of connection, with any application, to any party, is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and, now, the society based on it.

Join the fight for internet freedom.


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