Web 2.0 Summit 2006 - Day 2 / Net Neutrality debate between Vinton Cerf (ICANN/Google) and Robert Pepper (ex-FCC, now Cisco)

Day 2 notes from Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, CA:

[my analysis and notes are in these square brackets.]

Net Neutrality debate: Vinton Cerf, father of the internet vs. Robert Pepper, ex-FCC and now Cisco

  • Bob:
    • this is a falsely premised debate setting up tyranny on the one hand (heavy-handed regulation) vs.chaos (no regulation)
    • As an FCC policy guy, I have fought heavy regulation for ten years. If you invite the govt in to fix the problem, it will get in there and be much more far-reaching than you intended.
  • Cerf:
    • The architecture of the internet (separation of layers) has been responsible for success of the internet
    • Power is at the edge (you can grab an application and install it without central control.)
    • But with the current broadband monopoly/duopoly and their inherent desire to be anti competitive, we want to pre-empt them from being anti-competitive.
  • Bob:
    • There was some legislation that would have given the FCC teeth to do much of this but that legislation died
  • Cerf:
    • We didn’t back that legislation because we hadn’t seen FCC enforcement work properly in the past.
    • we wanted common-carriage rights but you didn’t want that.
  • Bob:
    • This is more complex than you think.
  • Cerf:
    • “That’s theorem 207. EVERYTHING is more complex than we think.” [Funny theorem…but I’m not sure that I have the theorem number correct.]
    • The internet is a layered structure. We need to factor that into the law.
  • Bob:
    • Cerf and I agree in end-to-end principles, punishing anti-competitive behaviours, and universal access.
    • We just disagree on how to get there. You want regulation. We want case law developed over time.
  • Cerf:
    • Case law takes too long to develop. We want to lay it out up front so that we know what is right, what is wrong, and what are the bad behaviours that will get published.
    • the big lie is that the application service providers (google etc.) were getting a free ride.
  • Cerf: Bob and I both want to crush the anti-competitive behaviours so that we protect the innovation on the web. We just differ in our thoughts on how best to get there.
  • [At the end of the day, this debate appears to be more based on: what is the best regulatory mechanism to fulfill one’s desired ends? There is something to be said about understanding these things and taking the more complicated route (case law?) vs. the easy route that might have more complicated spill-over effects? There have been many cases where the “simple” legislated answer ended up having all sorts of complex effects that could not have been predicted in advance. Case law does tend to be more iterative.]