Tim Berners-Lee on Net Neutrality

Is the New York Times going all wobbly?

Adam Cohen, in a naively one-sided piece this morning entitled "Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May Be About to End", tells us that the demise of Net Neutrality will undermine "the most democratic mass medium there has ever been."

Cohen bases the article on the pro Net Neutrality views of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. The problem, however, with the piece is that Sir Tim's arguments aren't at all convincing.

Cohen says that the debate really is about the cost of broadcasting video which the service providers want to charge for. According to Sir Tim, most innovative days of video on the Internet are still to come:

"Sir Tim expects that there are great Internet innovations yet to come, many involving video. He believes people at the scene of an accident — or a political protest — will one day be able to take pictures with their cellphones that could be pieced together to create a three-dimensional image of what happened. That sort of innovation could be blocked by fees for the high-speed connections required to relay video images."

Sorry, Sir Tim, but you sounds to me like just another Web 2.0 entrepreneur trying to pitch a me-too online video business. Do we really need a 3-D image of a political protest taken from people's cellphones? Where's the real value here, either in commercial or political terms? Aren't traditional photographs or simple words sufficient to describe political protests and accidents?

If this is the best argument that the pro Net Neutrality people can muster, then I'm on the side of the large telecoms and cable companies who, Cohen and Sir Tim warn us, are trying to exclude the "smaller, poorer Web sites" from reaching out to a "potential audience of billions."

Yawn. How awful.