Woz on net neutrality

Posted on: Fri, 12/24/2010 - 00:21 By: Tom Swiss

As you may have gathered from my last post about them, I am not a fan of Steve Jobs and Apple; they've been on my shit list since the infamous look and feel lawsuits of the late 80s and early 90s. But I am a fan of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. "Woz", as many know him, is pretty much the anti-Jobs: he was the engineering genius behind Apple's early success, back in the pre-Mac days when functionality and openness were Apple's virtues. He was the sole developer of the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for the Apple I, and did the vast majority of the design and development for the Apple II. Many technophiles have contrasted the openness and elegance of Woz's work with the closed, walled-garden, and pretty but technologically deficient designs pushed by Jobs.

Before Apple, Woz founded a Dial-a-Joke line; after Apple, he spent almost a decade teaching computer science, without pay, for public schools in Los Gatos. When Apple went public, Woz shared his stock options with employees he though had been unfairly left out. Wired columnist Leander Kahney calls Woz "a man who has lived his life according to deeply geeky and humanistic principles," which seems to me like a correct description and a high complement.

So when Woz talks about something with both technological and humanistic implications, like network neutrality, the wise pay heed:

The early Internet was so accidental, it also was free and open in this sense. 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. Local ISP's should provide connection to the Internet but then it should be treated as though you own those wires and can choose what to do with them when and how you want to, as long as you don't destruct them. I don't want to feel that whichever content supplier had the best government connections or paid the most money determined what I can watch and for how much. This is the monopolistic approach and not representative of a truly free market in the case of today's Internet.

Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.