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"Do we need a new Internet?" Eventually of course! Until then we need smart network innovation

In asking the important question: "Do we need a new Internet?," John Markoff's article in the New York Times has helped focus the overall Internet debate on the importance of encouraging innovation to better protect Internet users.

  • Mr. Markoff's important article spotlights efforts by mainstream researchers like Stanford's Clean Slate project to "re-invent the Internet" to address its security deficiencies. It also provided an outlet for those concerned about the Internet's increasingly serious security vulnerabilities.  

It should not be surprising that researchers would be trying to innovate to create a better Internet that is safer and more secure; given that the:

  • Original Internet /protocol/architecture was designed 35 years ago; and
  •  Internet's co-designer, Google's Vint Cerf readily admits the Internet's serious end-to-end architectural shortcomings.
    • When asked in an interview with the Guardian about Internet security, Mr. Cerf replied:
      • "It's every man for himself," he says, grinning. "In the end, it seems every machine has to defend itself. The internet was designed that way."
    • Even more recently Mr. Cerf admitted:
      • "It's true that we didn't focus very heavily on the security side at the time that we were finalizing the current protocols that you're using. We were much more concerned about whether it worked at all, as opposed to, "does it work securely?""  

The immediately defensive and negative reaction  to Mr. Markoff's reasonable question even being asked -- is highly instructive.   


Why are people so threatened by the notion that:

  • Innovation may continue to evolve the Internet?
  • A next generation Internet might be more safe/secure for users?
  • Change may come to the Internet?
  • A future innovation may prove better than one developed over thirty five years ago before the invention of the PC?

It is absurd on its face to propose there should never be a new Internet. It would be like saying there should be no change to printing after the invention of the Gutenberg press!

  • I can understand how one might not choose a new Internet over the old Internet, if the new one proved to not be an improvement, or enough of an improvement to justify the migration hassle. 
  • However, to summarily dismiss that no future "new Internet" innovation could improve on the existing Internet -- is patently absurd. 

Why are many threatened by Mr. Markoff's legitimate question: "Do we need a new Internet?"?


The real reason is that making security more of a priority on the Internet threatens net neutrality political othodoxy.

  • That orthodoxy insists on an inviolate end-to-end Internet infrastructure where bits are only controlled by the user at the edge and never managed at the core by a network provider. 

The most threatening part of Mr. Markoff's question and article to net neutrality orthodoxy was his insight that a more secure Internet "is likely to emerge as new hardware and software are built in to the router computers" that run the Internet at its core.

  • Net neutrality orthodoxy insists that innovation should only occur at the edge of the network, and that any smart network innovation or reasonable network management at the core -- is by definition discrimination and an infringement of free speech -- because bits are being interfered with.

Bottom line:


It is the height of hypocrisy and irresponsibility for net neutrality proponents to claim to be motivated by promoting innovation and the best interests of Internet users, when they oppose on principle, smart network innovation and reasonable network management practices that make the Internet safer and more secure going forward.