FATHER OF the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee has issued a stark warning to the European Union ahead of a crucial vote on net neutrality due to take place tomorrow.
After the historic win for net neutrality supporters in the US earlier this year, tomorrow will see MEPs looking at plans for internet fast lanes in the UK and mainland Europe.
Berners-Lee said in a blog post on the World Wide Web Foundation website: "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."
He warned that the proposed legislation is "weak and confusing" and that there are certain minimum standards that ministers must look for.
Firstly he recommends "keeping the internet a level playing field" by ending a loophole which would allow 'fast lanes' to be created under the banner of 'specialised services'.
Berners-Lee said that no provider should be allowed to 'zero rate' an app or site, i.e. not include it in a user's data allowance. The controversial Facebook portal from Internet.org is an example.
In addition, the rules as written could allow the throttling of internet traffic, even when no congestion is occurring, which should be banned along with any loophole to allow ISPs to predict 'impending congestion' and throttle speeds to prevent traffic before it may or may not happen.
In a direct call to action for MPs, Berners-Lee continued: "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 to those recently secured in the US."
The vote taking place tomorrow has already seen more than 30 industry leaders sign an open letter to MEPs asking them to do the right thing. Signatories include representatives from the likes of BitTorrent, WordPress, Kickstarter and SoundCloud. µ
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