Thursday, July 24, 2008

Amen Brother! (Again)

Vint Cerf, a father of the internet and Google net evangelist speaks his mind and displays his frustration with the incumbent telecomm companies. It's nice to hear someone say it out loud. His distress is over the ways that the current network incumbents are trying to game the regulatory system to con the nation into granting them effective monopolies in return for doing the obviously necessary: building a real fiber network. It's well worth listening to the video.

One of the nicer things about the networked, always-on world we are emerging into is that unedited experiences can be much more widely distributed than was possible only a few years ago.

If you've ever attended a good conference you know that 80% of the value is in the conversations in the halls or at various socials...that's where people talk frankly about what really matters. But you had to attend the conference and, usually, present to get in on the good conversations.

That's what is happening in this video. Vint Cerf is at some cocktail party where he's been asked about Verizon. And with a glass of wine or two under his belt he speaks the unvarnished truth. "In Vino Veritas."

It's hard for me to listen to this without just saying "Yes, Yes!" Yes, Verizon is hardly to be praised for doing the obvious. Yes, Verizon hasn't been aparticularly "good guy" and doing what is necessary is only mildly praiseworthy. Yes, all the incumbents' behavior has been flatly irresponsible. Yes, they are trying to play a game with the country that involves their getting a free hand to control the future in return for doing what is plainly their responsibility.

I'd have to say, however, that Cerf doesn't propose a viable alternative. And he doesn't, here anyway confront the implications of monopoly power that is at stake here. The only responsible path forward is to build the network as a public good. The incumbents are only doing what comes naturally and railing against that is refreshing but not likely to be effective. Replacing them with differently motivated players--as Lafayette intends to do--is the only way forward that is likely to actually serve the public.

Watch the video, it's oddly shot and washed out but definitely worth it.

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