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Internet co-creator says U.S. broadband competition has ‘evaporated’

Vint Cerf Internet Competition

Vint Cerf, the legendary computer scientist who co-created the TCP/IP networking protocols that serve as the Internet’s foundation, isn’t afraid to speak out about controversial issues. And now Ars Technica reports that Cerf this week took aim at the state of competition for broadband services in the United States, which he said has “evaporated” since the days of dial-up.

“I have to tell you that in the 1990s there were 7 or 8,000 Internet service providers because the Internet was provided through dial-up,” said Cerf, who currently works as Google’s (GOOG) Chief Internet Evangelist. “If you wanted to switch you just changed the telephone number you call. When broadband came along the number of choices you had telescoped down to one or two: either a telco or cable company or both, and so competition evaporated. There isn’t enough of it. Getting access to competition to discipline the market and give you choice is still an important consideration.”

Cerf didn’t offer any concrete suggestions for ways to make the American broadband market more competitive, but generally dismissed the idea that deregulating broadband services would magically lead to more options and lower prices for consumers.

“If no regulation leads to your loss of choice of access to applications and content, then that is not an acceptable outcome,” he said. “If that’s what the telcos are trying to accomplish, I am opposed. If all they’re trying to accomplish is to make sure the Internet stays as widely open as possible, and they are willing to provide competitive access and give us choice, that’s another story… With regard to the regulatory practices, what I am after more than anything else is to inhibit anti-competitive behavior. It’s necessary to make sure that people who control underlying resources don’t do so in such a way as to distort the market.”

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