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Monday, 28 July 2008 13:32

'Father of the Internet' lambastes 'childish' carriers

By
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.

Please read on to find out what Cerf said about regulation.


"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.

The video of the interview is available here.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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