Woz pleads for free and open internet
Steve Wozniak is an out and out self proclaimed geek. As the co-founder of Apple, he has given the world products aimed at making our life easier and more fun.
On the occasions I have interviewed him he is always bright and upbeat about the state of the industry and where it is going. Today he is feeling very differently about his view of the world.
In a lengthy letter in the distinguished magazine The Atlantic, Woz expresses a high degree of frustration and concern about the future of internet.
"The Internet has become as important as anything man has ever created. But those freedoms are being chipped away. Please, I beg you, open your senses to the will of the people to keep the Internet as free as possible."
Woz's plea is aimed at US regulators and legislators. His consternation follows a vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week to approve rules aimed at ensuring that all traffic is treated equally in the wired world and that broadband companies cannot favour anyone's content over another.
Rules for the wireless world have been watered down. It's a move that many net neutrality advocates I have spoken to are deeply worried about as more and more consumers turn to their smartphones and tablet devices to access the web for work, keeping in touch and entertainment.
Mr Wosniak wrote:
"We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it's probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself."
The full details of the order approved in a 3-2 majority vote this week will not be released for a few days, but two Democrat commissioners serving on the FCC expressed their distaste with the rules because they felt they did not go far enough to protect consumers. Michael Copps told the agency "universal access to broadband needs to be seen as a civil right...(though) not many people have talked about it that way".
Woz is clearly of the same mind:
"I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I'm asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to 'sign on' with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I'm a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
"That's how the people think. They don't want this to encroach on their Internet freedom."
For a full read of the letter go here.