by C.G. Lynch

Finally a politician who (hopefully) understands net neutrality

Mar 01, 20073 mins

It’s been asserted here that companies who enable collaboration, both within and outside their enterprises, have a better chance of creating important innovations in the 21st century. The most common platform for that collaboration to take place over is the internet. As such, maintaining net neutrality – the ability for everyone to access all web entities fairly and promptly without prejudice by telecom providers – is essential in that endeavor.

I’ve been a little worried the past year or two that the majority of CIOs in the private sector don’t care a lot about net neutrality (I desperately want to be wrong about that, so please set me straight). But what’s been especially troubling is that politicians who have direct influence over the issue might not even know what it is.

Finally, it seems, that might be changing.

Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) at least indicates he knows what’s at stake. As the new chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the internet, he plans to hold hearings (starting today) about the future of the internet. He’s going to kick off the testimony with Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

            Markey has placed net neutrality and the promise of fair competition on the top of his agenda. This is a far cry from previous legislators’ attempts to wrap their heads around the issue. Last summer, there was the infamous speech by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) in which he offered his wonderfully insightful thoughts on the internet and net neutrality. (I just dipped that sentence in a steaming hot fondue pot of sarcasm). In describing the internet that day, Stevens explained, it’s a “series of tubes. And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.”

Stunning, right?

That speech (rightly) terrified people who care about net neutrality, knowing a career senator like Stevens (and his colleagues, both republican and democrat) could indeeed be swayed – let’s face it, be pushovers – by the lobbying efforts of wealthy telecoms who seek to eliminate net neutrality. The speech set off a wave of laughter (and fear) on the blogosphere as well as business technology media outlets.


Maintaining the democratizing force of the internet is essential for collaboration across the world. Markey seems to signal he knows that.

 I hope you do, too.