Net Neutrality Advocates Face Off

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2006-07-17 Print this article Print

Two legends of the Internet discuss their slightly different views of Internet access and net neutrality.

WASHINGTON—What was billed as the great net neutrality debate of the season started off with the participants in complete agreement. Fortunately for the audience, it didn't stay that way. Yet by the time the debate was over, the most startling fact was how close the two sides were in their positions.

The debaters were Vinton Cerf, called by many the "Father of the Internet." Cerf, now chief internet evangelist for Google, is credited with inventing the TCP/IP protocol that makes the Internet work.

On the other side was Professor David Farber, frequently called the "Grandfather of the Internet." Farber's students went on to invent most of the critical aspects of the Internet today.

The initial statements at the debate—which was sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank—bemoaned what both sides call a "Bumper Sticker War."

Both debaters agreed that the nearly constant stream of television and newspaper ads surrounding this issue really work to reduce understanding in the issues and do a lot to reduce the debate on net neutrality to a series of slogans.

Cerf said that the primary reason that he, and Google, are concerned about the net neutrality issue is because of a series of threats made by AT&T CEO Ed Whittaker to refuse carriage of traffic bound for sites such as Google if the company didn't pay for the privilege.

Cerf said that if people had a wide choice of Internet providers, this wouldn't matter. But he said that the fact is, most people have a choice of only one or two broadband providers.

"Most people have a choice of DSL or cable, but not both," Cerf said. He noted that things had changed greatly since the days of dial-up access when users could access the Internet using many different ISPs.

"At best it's a duopoly," he said.

Cerf did admit that other avenues to prevent abuse by broadband providers do exist. "The Federal Trade Commission, the FCC and the Department of Justice all have jurisdiction in this," Cerf said.

"If a broadband supplier abused their control by limiting choice, consumers could file complaints," he said.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Net Neutrality Advocates Face Off

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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