00:56 AM

Network Neutrality: Why The Silence From Vint Cerf, Father Of Internet And GOOG Senior VP?

Why is Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet Evangelist and father of the Internet silent on this issue of Internet neutrality?

It's an issue that has blown up over the past few days yet Mr. Cerf has been absent.

Just over a year ago, Mr. Cerf wrote this on the Google public policy blog:

Allowing a handful of broadband carriers to determine what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the features that have made the Internet such a success, and could permanently compromise the Internet as a platform for the free exchange of information, commerce, and ideas.

...we believe that providers should have the flexibility to manage traffic congestion and malware on their networks in non-discriminatory ways. They should not, however, be in the anti-competitive business of picking winners and losers.

Today on the same blog, Google and Verizon have thrown out these principles when applied to wireless broadband!

In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.

This is a bullshit excuse. Traffic has to be prioritized on the backbone and wired connections before it reaches the wireless transmitters. That means prioritized traffic will be available for wireline too!

Here is a short video interview I shot with Vint Cerf at the Fortune Brainstorm conference two years ago. In it he says the Telcos are harming the US national interest.

(The lighting was bad so I turned it into a high contrast video.)


Australia's IT wire wrote this story with a partial transcript.

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 (i.e., net neutrality).

The current behavior 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.

Foremski's Take:

If Google wanted to calm the waters around this issue of Internet neutrality, they would wheel out their Chief Internet Evangelist who also happens to be Father of the Internet: Vint Cerf.

Yet he is absent. And by his absence in this discussion -- one that has involved him on past occasions -- can we assume he is in disagreement?

It looks that way to me.