Fight for the Future


“We have four days to save the open Internet in Europe.” An open letter by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Professor Larry Lessig, and Professor Barbara van Schewick

Posted 15:30 EDT on July 14, 2016

Today, the inventor of the Word Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Lessig, and Barbara van Schewick published an open letter to European citizens, law makers and regulators. Entitled “We have four days to save the open Internet in Europe,” the letter:

  • urges regulators to make changes in four key areas to secure meaningful net neutrality in Europe; and
  • urges Europeans to take action by participating in the public consultation.

Four days before the end of the public consultation on net neutrality in Europe, the letter could be a game-changer in the debate over the future of the Internet in Europe.

The letter is available here: http://webfoundation.org/2016/07/four-days-to-save-the-open-internet-in-europe-an-open-letter/

What’s happening & why it matters:

Last fall, the European Union adopted a net neutrality law that was widely viewed as the end of net neutrality in Europe. Now regulators are writing guidelines to determine how the law will be applied in practice. What most people don’t know: These guidelines could still secure net neutrality in Europe — if regulators use them to close potential loopholes in the law.

Until July 18, the public has an opportunity to comment on the draft guidelines in a public consultation. While the draft guidelines are promising, they need to be improved in four key areas, described in the letter, to provide meaningful net neutrality in Europe. The letter urges regulators to make these changes.

So far, the consultation has received little public attention. That’s a big problem. The carriers are lobbying furiously to water down the guidelines. Their latest move: Last Wednesday, the 17 largest telecom companies in Europe threatened not to invest in the next generation of 5G mobile networks unless regulators water down the guidelines. Their efforts are getting traction: EU commissioner Oettinger, the commissioner in charge of this proceeding, published the manifesto on the Commission’s website and lauded it on Twitter.

Unless people speak up now, regulators will not be able to withstand this pressure and we will lose net neutrality in Europe after all. In India and the United States, millions of people participated in the public consultations on net neutrality. Their voices were a key factor that motivated regulators to adopt strong net neutrality rules in these countries.

Key quotes from the letter:

“Network neutrality for hundreds of millions of Europeans is within our grasp. Securing this is essential to preserve the open Internet as a driver for economic growth and social progress. But the public needs to tell regulators now to strengthen safeguards, and not cave in to telecommunications carriers’ manipulative tactics.”

“We – the ordinary users of the Internet – don’t have expensive lobbyists. But we have millions of people – everyday Europeans, startups, investors, small businesses, activists, NGOs, bloggers, independent artists – who have experienced the power of the open Internet first hand and want to protect it.”

“The Internet has become the critical infrastructure of our time – for our daily life, for our economy, for our democracy. Strong guidelines will protect the future of competition, innovation, and creative expression in Europe, enhancing Europe’s ability to lead in the digital economy. They will ensure that every European, no matter the color of their skin or the size of their wallets, has an equal chance to innovate, compete, speak, organize, and connect online.”

“There are four areas that regulators need to get right to secure meaningful net neutrality in Europe:
1. Ban Fast Lanes: Regulators need to close a loophole that could allow carriers to offer special “fast lanes” to normal websites and applications for a fee.
2. Ban Zero-rating: Regulators need to ban harmful forms of zero-rating.
3. Ban Discrimination: Regulators need to prevent carriers from discriminating among classes of traffic to manage their networks.
4. Protect Internet Access: Regulators need to prohibit new “specialized” services from taking over bandwidth that people bought to access the Internet.”

“Telecom regulators can still protect net neutrality in Europe – if they make the key changes described above. We urge regulators to make these changes. And we urge you to contact those regulators before July 18th and let them know the public supports strong network neutrality guidelines.“

“We have four days to save the open Internet in Europe. Let’s use them.”

You can find the full text of the letter here: http://webfoundation.org/2016/07/four-days-to-save-the-open-internet-in-europe-an-open-letter/

About the authors of the letter

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the inventor of the World Wide Web. He founded and directs the World Wide Web Consortium, the forum for technical development of the Web, and the World Wide Web Foundation, which works to ensure that the World Wide Web serves humanity. His twitter handle is @timberners_lee.

Larry Lessig, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, was the first to write about the concept of net neutrality even before the term was coined. His research, testimony, and advocacy on net neutrality laid the foundation for net neutrality debates around the world. His book “Code and other laws of cyberspace” revolutionized the field of Internet policy. His twitter handle is @lessig.

Barbara van Schewick, Professor of Law and (by courtesy) Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, is a leading expert on net neutrality. Her work on net neutrality has influenced regulatory proceedings on net neutrality in the US, India, South America, and Europe. The FCC’s Open Internet Orders in 2010 and 2015, which adopted net neutrality rules for the US, relied heavily on her work. Last year, Slate put her at the top of the list of “Women who won net neutrality” in the US. Her twitter handle is @vanschewick. She can be reached at schewick@stanford.edu.


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