Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Internet Father Vint Cerf Says Telcos Harming National Interest

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 22, 2008

Vint Cerf, father of the Internet and chief Internet evangelist for Google.

I interviewed Mr Cerf at the Fortune Brainstorm conference in Half Moon Bay. He often speaks about net neutrality. In this interview he says that companies such as Verizon misquoted him in full page adverts in major newspapers.

He says the Telcos are acting like little kids in a tantrum. "I'm not going to build this system unless you give me three scoops of ice cream and a pony. My reaction to this is quite negative. It's harmful to the national interest to behave in this way."

Mr Cerf wants a split in the way broadband providers operate so that they are not allowed to interfere with any applications on the Internet and that the carriers charge themselvesl, from an acconting point of view, how much bandwidth they use.

He says that carriers should be provided with incentives to make them behave differently or there should be an incentive for competitors to come into the market that can effectively compete with them and to take away their monopoly position.

Here is the 3.45 minute interview, my apologies for the lighting but the audio is very interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-dLq3uIJos

Update: Here is a story from Australia's ITWire which provides a partial transcript of the video:

Vint Cerf, who is widely regarded as the 'father of the Internet' for his contribution to the original TCP/IP specification, has lashed out at carriers accusing them of behaving like young children throwing tantrums. In an especially strongly worded attack, Cerf called for structural separation between the wholesale and retail broadband arms of carriers among other changes.

In a brief interview with SiliconValleyWatcher, Cerf said carriers were effectively saying "I'm not going to build this system unless you give me three scoops of ice cream and a pony", and provided a laundry list of changes in the regulatory environment that he'd like to see to improve the situation. These include:

The reintroduction of common carrier status;

Structural or accounting separation, with a requirement that carriers wholesale broadband at the same prices that they charge themselves; and

No interference with other providers' applications (ie, net neutrality).

The current behaviour of carriers is harmful to the national interest, he said - an observation that wouldn't only apply to the US.

"[Deregulation] is crap, especially where you have a set of incumbents," he said. Instead, we "need a set of rules that makes sense."

Consequently, carriers need to be given incentives to behave differently or (Cerf's emphasis) incentives should be provided for competitors to compete with incumbents.

"In places where there is strong regulatory control, it seems to be working," he said.
You need to keep in mind that Cerf is a vice president at Google (a strong proponent of network neutrality), but there's no reason to assume that his opinions are not genuinely held.
We can't help feeling Cerf could just as easily be talking about Telstra as the US carriers that were the subject of his onslaught.
Currently an argument is raging between incumbent dominant carrier Telstra and other smaller players, with regulator the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sandwiched in between. Telstra, a front-runner to build a national broadband FTTH network, is pressing to have the market dregulated so it is not forced to sell competitors bandwidth at regulated wholesale prices.

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