TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Vint Cerf Testimony to Congressional Committee

Vint Cerf Testimony to Congressional Committee

Circle ID (
Thu, 10 Nov 2005 23:19:39 -0600

Vint Cerf Speaking Out on Internet Neutrality
By CircleID Reporter

In a U.S. congress hearing held yesterday November 9th, significant
focus was projected on 'network neutrality' and a new
telecommunications bill affecting the Internet. "This bill
could fundamentally alter the fabulously successful end-to-end
Internet," says Alan Davidson in the post on Google blog.

Vint Cerf was not able to testify because of the Presidential Medal of
Freedom award ceremony at the White House, but submitted the following
letter to the hearing:

Dear Chairman Barton and Ranking Member Dingell,

I appreciate the inquiries by your staff about my availability to
appear before the Committee and to share Google's views about draft
telecommunications legislation and the issues related to 'network
neutrality'. These are matters of great importance to the Internet and
Google welcomes the Committee's hard work and attention. The hearing
unfortunately conflicts with another obligation, and I am sorry I will
not be able to attend. (Along with my colleague Robert Kahn, I am
honored to be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wednesday
at the White House for our work in creating the Internet protocol

Despite my inability to participate in the planned hearing in person,
I hope that you will accept some brief observations about this

The remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is
in many ways directly attributable to the architectural
characteristics that were part of its design. The Internet was
designed with no gatekeepers over new content or services. The
Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at
each level of the network to innovate free of any central control. By
placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of
the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This
has led to an explosion of offerings's from VOIP to 802.11x wi-fi to
blogging that might never have evolved had central control of the
network been required by design.

My fear is that, as written, this bill would do great damage to the
Internet as we know it. Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network
operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to
potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in
control of online activity. Allowing broadband providers to segment
their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own
services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country
and economy need. Many people will have little or no choice among
broadband operators for the foreseeable future, implying that such
operators will have the power to exercise a great deal of control over
any applications placed on the network.

As we move to a broadband environment and eliminate century-old
non-discrimination requirements, a lightweight but enforceable
neutrality rule is needed to ensure that the Internet continues to
thrive. Telephone companies cannot tell consumers who they can call;
network operators should not dictate what people can do online.

I am confident that we can build a broadband system that allows users
to decide what websites they want to see and what applications they
want to use and that also guarantees high quality service and network
security. That network model has and can continue to provide economic
benefits to innovators and consumers and to the broadband operators
who will reap the rewards for providing access to such a valued

We appreciate the efforts in your current draft to create at least a
starting point for net neutrality principles. Google looks forward to
working with you and your staff to draft a bill that will maintain the
revolutionary potential of the broadband Internet.

Thank you for your attention and for your efforts on these important


Vinton Cerf
Chief Internet Evangelist
Google Inc.

CircleID is an Online Community Hub for the Internet's Core
Infrastructure & Policy Developments. Copyright 2005 Circle ID.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: While Vint Cerf raises some very good
points, he seems to overlook the fact that Internet already has a
de-facto central coordinator in the form of ICANN. And while ICANN
would seem to agree with Cerf on one point at least, that 'network
operators should not dictate what people can do online' (which is to
say they do not object to or stop spammers, scammers, virus writers
and similar vermin) ICANN sees no objection to having very onerous
contracts for regular users to follow. I'd accept his efforts at
sincerity -- even if he is a bit misguided, IMO -- if ICANN would at
the very least write their contracts to at least show disapproval of
some of the crap which has taken such a chokehold on the net in the
past decade. As long as things remain as they are now, where a regular
net user -- like myself, or most of you -- can lose his domain name in
an instant if ICANN chooses to enforce its contract and revoke us,
while turning a blind eye toward the ones who need to be revoked --
virus writers, fraudsters, spammers, etc -- then I am not sure I
believe Vint Cerf is doing other than putting on a good show for
Congress when he makes speeches or writes letters such as illustated
here. Quite obviously, Cerf is more than happy with the de-facto
central authority on the net (ICANN). He would have been more honest
saying "I do not want central authority _unless it is the central
authority of which I approve_. And in his years of employment with
MCI, Vint Cerf also sang a different tune: Control of the net by an
MCI/ICANN consortium would have suited him fine. PAT]

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