Web 2.0 Con: Liveblogging Vint Cerf vs. Robert Pepper on Net Neutrality

At the Web 2.0 Summit, host John Battelle is moderating a debate between Internet god Vint Cerf (pictured; he invented the main protocol used on the Internet) and Cisco exec and former FCC adviser Bob Pepper over Net Neutrality. Battelle has introduced the debate by explaining how hard it was to find anyone who's against net neutrality.

9:45: Bob Pepper starts. Not to make fun of two older guys, but this looks like a really calm fight between Gandalf and Saruman. Pepper says, "We have this dichotomous false choice: tyranny vs. chaos." Says the government isn't the best entity to help.

9:48: Pepper talks about a broadband consortium that listed rights of Internet users.

"Networks are managed. It's not black-or-white." In other words, the Internet as a network shouldn't be fully regulated or fully chaotic, but managed.

9:51: Vint Cerf: "Let me remind everyone that the Internet's success has been partly because of its architecture." Incidentally, Cerf looks exactly like the Matrix Architect.

Cerf: If there was real choice in broadband, then we wouldn't need regulation. Dial-up was easy to change providers; you just changed the number your computer dialed. Cable and DSL are tougher, someone has to hook you up.

Cerf explains that customers want broadband providers to take advantage of their control over the physical layer of the Internet only to affect services provided by them — if your broadband provider handles your e-mail, you may want them to virus-scan it. You don't want them to touch your webmail and "reach into those packets." Neutrality legislation would extend this principle to outlaw broadband providers throttling speed for content providers.

9:58: Cerf: Three elements of neutrality protection: Competitive action, consumer action, and one I didn't catch.

10:03: Pepper: The best solution is a strong case-by-case approach. One of our best bragging points is that our country doesn't regulate Internet providers like phone companies. We'd lose that by legislating net neutrality, by telling providers how to handle traffic.

Cerf: "I don't think regulation will lead to price control."
Pepper: "Because you've never been a regulator."
Cerf bristles. "I have to disagree...in my current role at ICANN...I am a regulator."

10:06: Pepper uses example of "turbo-zones": video-on-demand service. Lower-bandwidth subscribers could get boosted bandwidth for a few hours, and the content provider paid BellSouth for that extra bandwidth. "It's a double market." In other words, there are cooperative services that would be banned under net neutrality.

Cerf looks uncomfortable, a touch disdainful, but appreciates Pepper's point.

10:12: Cerf: "What it boils down to is focus on a constructive effort." Everyone wants Web 2.0 companies to pursue their goals unimpeded.

That's the end, stay tuned for the next talk.