In the New York Times of September 27 Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, advocates “Net neutrality,” or limiting Internet service providers’ control over information.
Q. Is your view that the anti-Net neutrality infrastructure actually threatens political democracy? Does it go beyond just the technical structure of the Internet?
A. Net neutrality is one of those principles, social principles, certainly now much more than a technical principle, which is very fundamental. When you break it, then it really depends how far you let things go. But certainly I think that the neutrality of the Net is a medium essential for democracy, yes — if there is democracy and the way people inform themselves is to go onto the Web.
Q. So there are political consequences. Are there are also economic consequences? If so, what are they?
A. I think the people who talk about dismantling — threatening — Net neutrality don’t appreciate how important it has been for us to have an independent market for productivity and for applications on the Internet.
Q. Do you have a view about the behavior of the telephone companies in this debate? Is this simply traditional monopolist behavior, or is it more subtle? Have you talked to them to understand their motivations?
A. I have tried, when I’ve had the opportunity to find out, to understand their motivations, but I can’t speak for them. So all I can do is guess. But my guess is that it’s not that this is a nefarious planned plot to take over the Internet by a bunch of people who hate it. What I imagine is that it is simply the culture of companies, which have been using a particular business model for a very long time. So I think there is a clash of corporate cultures.