Berners-Lee took the opportunity to cheerlead for net neutrality, no matter which device or transmission system is used to afford the end user access to the Web.
"A neutral communications medium is the basis of a fair, competitive market economy, of democracy, and of science," he said. "Debate has risen again in the past year about whether government legislation is needed to protect net neutrality. It is. Although the Internet and Web generally thrive on lack of regulation, some basic values have to be legally preserved."
Whether the federal government will continue to assert regulatory authority over the Internet remains in question, however, in the wake of a U.S. Court of Appeals decision last spring. The court in Washington tossed out a 2008 Federal Communications Commission ruling and swept away the framework that the FCC had been using to regulate the Internet since 2002.
Google, which is trying to make a business as a provider of a proprietary platform for personal health-record systems, and telecommunications giant Verizon responded by releasing their own proposed regulatory scheme.
But Berners-Lee and a number of other net neutrality proponents see the Google/Verizon regulatory compromise as less than optimal.
"Unfortunately," Berners-Lee said, "in August, Google and Verizon for some reason suggested that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone–based connections. Many people in rural areas from Utah to Uganda have access to the Internet only via mobile phones; exempting wireless from net neutrality would leave these users open to discrimination of service. It is also bizarre to imagine that my fundamental right to access the information source of my choice should apply when I am on my WiFi-connected computer at home but not when I use my cell phone."
Additionally, there are serious privacy issues raised by the new data-sharing environment "that are hardly addressed by today's privacy law," but should be addressed, Berners-Lee said. "We should examine legal, cultural and technical options that will preserve privacy without stifling beneficial data-sharing capabilities, ensuring that the technological protocols and social conventions we set up respect basic human values," he said.