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[ NNSquad ] Re: CBC: Internet founder blasts ISPs for hurting national interests

Subject: Internet founder blasts ISPs for hurting national interests

Internet founder blasts ISPs for hurting national interests

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | 2:05 PM ET

By Peter Nowak CBC News

Vint Cerf, who developed the technical principles on which the internet works, has blasted telephone and cable companies for harming national interests by holding investments in their networks to ransom.

Cerf, a long-time advocate of keeping the internet free from control by service providers and a current senior vice-president for search giant Google Inc., told the Silicon Valley Watcher blog that the companies are being childish by threatening to withhold upgrading networks unless they get breaks from regulators.

"Basically, it's 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,'" he said in a video posted on the blog on Tuesday. "My reaction to this is quite negative. It's harmful to the national interest to behave in this way because it is serious infrastructure — it's very much like the road ways."

Even though Cerf is one of the major forces in the development of the modern Internet, I have to disagree with him on this. The US (and to a large extent Canada and Wester Europe) is built on an enterpreneural model, where business owners/managers get to decide what is best for their business. And subject to reasonable regulations, they are free to do so on the basis of "what works for us" rather than "what is best for the country as a whole."

Cerf compares the Internet to roadways. That is all very well, but when the US needed more roadways, the Federal and state governments allocated tax dollars (or borrowed money) for that purpose. They didn't tell private businesses, "you have to run your business for _our_ benefit." That just isn't the job of business. And the 5th amendment agrees: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

If the government wants the Internet built out to _its_ preferences, it should pay for it. Either build the infrastructure itself and sell it to other businesses (or just give it away to consumers), or pay a fair price to ISPs and backbone providers for running their business the government's way instead of their own way.

Just one note: I think we have all seen how well the government model worked on the roads. While long rural highways are generally pretty uncongested, the highways are at near full stop at peak periods in nearly every major city in the US, Canada, Europe... By contrast, the (privately funded & built) Internet is doing a moderately good job of keeping up with demand. Not perfect, things slow down a little at peak periods, and I can remember times in the late 90s when download times became intolerable from about 10AM-3PM every day.

Cerf said large internet service providers (ISPs) need to be split into two entities — one wholesale arm that sells access to the company's network to other firms, and one retail arm that sells internet access to customers. The wholesale arm would have to sell access to other service providers at the same rate that it charges itself.

Sounds like a good idea, except... that didn't work too well with the phone companies in the 80s.

As for Rogers, anybody who won't learn from past mistakes will get pretty much what they deserve. It was stupid the first time, and they got slapped down. What is this, pure masochism? Hey, that hurt the first time, so I'll just stick my other cheek out to get slapped?