Defending the Net
After his presentation on the history of the Internet, he stopped by washingtonpost.com's booth to answer questions from our readers. A transcript of the Q&A session follows:
Tulsa, OK: Do you think the Internet will fundamentally change the political process?
Vint Cerf: I think it will have some significant impact both
in the direction of gathering information about
as well as provided by political candidates. I also
think elected authorities will find this a valuable
means of directly interacting with the electorate.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, my name is Erica Nash and I've worked on accessibility panels with your wife. I'd like to know if you believe there can be developed standards which will make the internet truly accessible to people with disabilities. If so, who would have to be involved with these regulations & how can they be enforced?
Vint Cerf: There are many people with an interest in access for
people with disabilities. Apple Computer and more
recently, Microsoft, have initiatives in this area.
WGBH's Media Access Center has been working in this
area for a number of media for some time. I'm very
optimistic that we will be able to use the power
of computers and software to improve access for
everyone. As to the regulatory aspect, there is
already a lot of horsepower in the US ADA to encourage
efforts in this direction.
Vint Cerf: We're just in the beginning stages of the design
the first opportunity to deploy anything would
probably come around 2003 in one of the Mars missions.
We hope to have a base design ready to publish around
July of 1999 and prototypes of parts of the system
operating "earthside" late in the year. We plan to
test a lot of the ideas in a planetary simulation which
introduces artificial delays, errors and periodic changes
in connectivity with a system of Interplanetary Gateway
prototypes. Of course, the long term realization will
probably take about 40 years.
Vint Cerf: Hi Dann, thanks for asking this question.
Woodside, California: Here's what I don't quite understand. Since IP telephony is conducted over the PSTN, using all of that infrastructure. Why is it less expensive than normal voice calls (comparing actual cost, not artificially inflated by tariffs). It's like saying I can use your truck to deliver goods, and it's so cheap because I dont have to pay for a truck.
Vint Cerf: There is today an access charge levied on long distance
companies by local carriers for use of the phone network
for telephone calls. It amounts to about 5.5 cents/minute.
Internet is an enhanced service and is not subject to
Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain: How do you think Internet will be in a near future, say 2010?
Vint Cerf: We are pretty sure by 2010 that Internet will be as large
as the telephone network or larger and that it will have
moved off-planet to support some robotic exploration of
the solar system, including sites on Mars. The capacity
available to consumers will almost certainly have reached
many megabits per second if not higher and global satellite
systems should be in place to provide global, continuous
coverage for people who need (and can afford) that kind
of service. Most appliances will have Internet-enabled
versions so they can be managed and controlled by a house-hold computer.
Arlington, VA: Do you forsee Internet voting in national elections perhaps leading to genuine public election of the President?
Vint Cerf: We are already seeing a certain amount of this happening,
for example in the area of securities proxies for stock-holder meetings. I can imagine general elections done
in the same way, but administering the system to eliminate
fraud will be a challenge. I am not sure I would expect
to see a change in the basic electoral process in the
U.S. as that mechanism has some safeguards that a flat
general election doesn't have.
Washington, DC: How soon do you think "super pipes" will be available to the average Joe to transport the increasing Internet traffic?
Vint Cerf: Historically, bandwidth available to the average user
have been increasing with time. Not as fast as most
of us would like, but, for example, this chat is being
conducted from a booth at NETEXPO'98 (MultiCom'98) using
a Richochet radio modem linking an IBM laptop into the
Internet over the air at about 38 kb/s. I think we will
see cable modems and Digital Subscriber Loops deployed
widely within the next 5 years, so by 2003, pretty good
bandwidth should be available at least in urban areas.
Charlottesville, VA: The University of Virginia and many other healthcare institutions are implementing telemedicine programs to provide healthcare to persons in medically underserved areas. How do you think the current Internet and the next-generation Internet initiatives will affect healthcare?
Vint Cerf: That's a good but tough question to answer. First I
think we will see more use of remote diagnosis and
data capture so that specialists can help with the
diagnostic process. Second, I think patients will make
increasing use of Internet to obtain information about
their medical problems and interact with others who
have experienced these problems in the past. Consulting
among multiple physicians will surely be assisted by
access to medical archives/databases. And, of course,
protecting personal privacy will be a challenge.
McLean, Va: What is your opinion of the Internet bandwidth management product such as Packeteer?
Vint Cerf: I haven't had personal experience with Packeteer,
but all of us in the business are intensely interested
in traffic management/engineering technologies that
will let us do a better job of allocating capacity
to demand. so this is an important business area for
companies like Packeteer.
I am very optimistic about this explosion. In fact, I
had concluded about 1988 (5 years after the first major
deployment in 1983) that we needed to find a way to allow
the Internet to become a commercial service. I asked the
U.S. Government for permission to connect MCI Mail to Internet
as an attempt to break that policy limitation. By coincidence, the Internet statistics started their
geometric doubling in that year and haven't stopped since.
Falls Church, VA: What do you think the future is for Digital Signatures (X.509 Schemes) and will we ever have a non-commercial (FREE) infrastructure?
Vint Cerf: I think digital signatures will play a key role in
electronic commerce and perhaps also in things like
general election voting and the like. Getting the
administrative infrastructure in place to support
certificate issuance is still a challenge. We don't
have a good legal framework yet to limit liability
or even understand the liability of certificate issuance.
Today's Financial Times states in an article on a telecomminications acquisition that "Industry forecasts suggest that the volume of data traffic will be 20 times that of voice calls by early in the next century..."
Vint Cerf: There is plenty of unused capacity on fibers using
wavelength division multiplexing we should be able to
extract terabits per second from today's fiber. The big
problem is routers or IP switches that can handle the
load and there are new products coming online that can handle much higher capacity than routers of the recent past.
Arlington, VA: What do you think about unsourced media outlets like the Drudge Report? How do you think that kind of online reporting reflects on respectable media organizations like the Post and the NY Times?
Vint Cerf: The Internet allows for all kinds of sources of all
kinds of quality generally the antidote for bad
information is more information, so I think we can
manage in this information rich environment.
Ashburn, VA: When do you think that e-commerce users will actually experience the benefits of disintermediation in the form of bringing buyers and sellers closer together and thus reducing price to the buyers on the one hand and increasing the price that sellers can achieve?
Vint Cerf: I think that we have a variety of opportunities to implement new kinds of services on the Internet so there is still an opportunity for intermediation even though i also believe that customers and suppliers will be much closer than the old wholesale-retail model of the past. New services will be automatically invoked in the course of engaging in internet commerce transactions, simply because they are on the net, and that creates new business opportunities for everyone.
That concludes today's discussion. Thanks to Vint Cerf for joining us today.
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