Open up access, says 'internet evangelist'

By Peter Nowak

The founding father of the internet will urge Communications Minister David Cunliffe to regulate Telecom when he visits Wellington next week.

American computer scientist Vint Cerf, acknowledged as one of the key creators of the internet for his role in developing the technical protocols on which it is based, said yesterday he was disappointed with the broadband situation here.

"I had hoped [since] my visit three or four years ago there would be a more enlightened view about all this. Plainly, that's not happened," Cerf said.

New Zealand ranks near the bottom of broadband uptake among OECD countries - 22nd out of 30.

Cerf said the problem was twofold, with the first issue being a lack of competition among broadband providers.

"Secondly, there does not appear to be much understanding or appreciation of the potential business opportunities awaiting the deployment of broadband, other than some very conventional ones."

Broadband access was not just about email and web surfing. It spurred innovative, economy-transforming services and companies such as Google, Amazon and eBay.

Cunliffe is reviewing telecommunications regulation and pondering ways to break Telecom's monopoly over broadband provision. He has said a decision will be made by mid-year.

Cerf said that with the obvious lack of competition, the Government's action should be clear.

"If you cannot heal this problem with adequate competition, then you had better start invoking regulatory constraint to ensure open access to broadband facilities."

Cerf, chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, will be in Wellington for a convention of the international internet governance body, taking place all next week.

While he stopped short of suggesting specific regulatory action, he pointed out the structural separation of British Telecom seemed to be working well.

"According to anecdotal reports from BT, that's turned into a perfectly good business."

Cerf has been vocal in his criticism of telcos and their attempts to control access to the internet.


Vint Cerf

* Born in 1943, the American computer scientist played a key role in the development of Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), which forms the technical backbone of how the internet works.
* Attended Stanford University and created the TCP/IP standard between 1976and 1982 while working for the US Department of Defence.
* Between 1982 and 1986 he helped to create the first commercial email service while working for MCI.
* Hired by Google last year as the company's "chief internet evangelist".

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