“free/open internet”

Time to stop talking about the free/open Internet?

Last week, instead of working on the bar exams, I spent some time on Twitter discussing with Ryan Heath, spokesperson for EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes who’s pushing for a new law on telecommunications. The draft is drawing some criticism right now, as it’s said to defeat network neutrality (Bits of Freedom points out that the current draft could be incompatible with the Dutch law on network neutrality).

But I wasn’t interested in the discussions on the bill itself, rather I saw that Ryan Heath claimed to “♥ open internet” on Twitter and so it triggered my curiosity. What does “free/open internet” mean for a EU commissioner spokesperson? So here’s what he wrote:

“open Internet” means a network everyone can access affordably and without restrictions on content, with room to innovate

When I asked what he meant exactly by no restrictions on content, he replied:

Zero restrictions essentially. Of course not extending 2 content such as child pornography(punishable as serious criminal offence)

(I have to say it’s amazing for a spokesperson that he was able to contradict himself in less than 140 characters.)

I think this illustrates that the term open internet is to be avoided. It is clearly meaningless and does nothing to help frame the discussion.

So I think I’ll add this to my list of buzzwords that I try to avoid: Cloud computing, Big Data, Open Web, (add yours).

On a side note, the argument of the EU Commission spokesperson that evenining was: if you fight against us on this, that means you’re against enabling internet-innovation for hospitals. Because you know, if your hospital does not have the right surgeon, there’s an app for that…

This kind of thinking must be avoided. Laws that regulate internet intermediaries should not be made solely on the basis of market regulation; because the internet is an important infrastructure for all of us, it’s more importantly a matter of freedom and human rights.

BTW, if you apply that market approach to the examples of hospitals in need of prioritized internet access, that also implies that you allow telecoms to charge hospitals more money for the privilege of prioritized access. Well done.

PS: I’ve always disliked the expression “open Web.” Not so much because I prefer the term Free Software over Open Source because it refers to freedom, which I think is more important and less ambiguous than “open” but also because the expression itself implies that there is such a thing as a “closed Web.” Then, what would that be? A website with Flash? I don’t even consider flash as part of the web, but just some proprietary blobs served over http. I don’t think that everything served over http is necessarily part of the web.