Cerf Talks Net Neutrality With Senate

    February 7, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Google VP and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, as Congress began to consider the concept of network neutrality for the Internet.

Directly above them, framed in the doorway...stood Albus Dumbledore, his wand aloft, his face white and furious. Harry felt a kind of electric charge through every particle of his body - they were saved.
— the greatest wizard of all time arrives to thwart the Death Eaters, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Internet Protocol wizard Vint Cerf made a dramatic appearance himself today, as he attended a Senate committee hearing on network neutrality. He spoke about the need for a neutral platform, the Internet, to enable the innovation that has made applications, content, and services available that would have been stifled by “central control” of the Internet.

“Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the Internet such a success,” Cerf said, in reference to the fervent desires of the major Internet service providers to set up a “two-tiered” Internet. He referred to that kind of prioritization as a “zero-sum game.”

Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth executives have all publicly called for the ability to charge big online content providers like Google and Yahoo additional fees for using their networks. The issue has sparked a righteous outcry online against those proposals.

Cerf noted how cable and phone operators control 98 percent of the US broadband market. That control has not led to a wide breadth of competition either, as Cerf observed in his statement:

Unfortunately, the FCC’s own figures demonstrate the significant degree of concentration in the broadband market. In 2004, the Commission reported that only 53 percent of Americans have a choice between cable modem service and DSL service. Of the remaining consumers, 28 percent have only one choice, and 19 percent have no choice at all. Thus, nearly half of all consumers lack meaningful choice in broadband providers.

Moreover, the alternatives to DSL and cable modem service remain a very small part of the market. As of December 2004, the FCC’s figures show that incumbent cable and telephone company broadband services together constitute 98.7 percent of the total market. This leaves only 1.3 percent of the current market for alternative broadband networks such as wireless, satellite, and BPL. Shockingly, the share of alternative networks has shrunken steadily, from 2.9 percent in December 1999.

In closing, Cerf stated how broadband access should be “creating the most benefits for the most people” instead of being limited by the phone and cable providers. “We must do all we can to preserve the fundamental enabling principles of the Internet: user choice, innovation, and global competitiveness.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.