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Vint Cerf condemns two-tier internet

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Vint Cerf told Congress yesterday that ideas proposed by telecoms companies for a two-tier internet were fatally flawed and, if necessary, legislation should be passed to make it impossible.

Giving evidence to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, Cerf called for a "net neutrality" law to force broadband providers to give equal access to any website or application. He fears that if network companies are able to charge content companies it will stifle business start-ups.

Cerf told IDG: "Nothing less than the future of the internet is at stake in these discussions. We must preserve neutrality in the system in order to allow the new Googles of the world, the new Yahoo!s, the new Amazons to form. We risk losing the internet as catalyst for consumer choice, for economic growth, for technological innovation, and for global competitiveness.

Law professor Lawrence Lessig agreed pointing to Hotmail and P2P instant messaging as innovations created by "outsiders". He told Red Herring: "New innovation always comes from outsiders.".

In recent weeks, various broadband providers, like AT&T, have said that companies like Google or Yahoo! using broadband networks to reach customers should pay the network providers. This ignores the obvious point that customers are already paying a monthly subscription for their broadband access and if there weren't any content providers there wouldn't be much point paying for access to an empty network. Verizon has made similar comments. ®

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