Seidenberg: Apps Vs. Pipes Is Dumb and “Zero Sum”

Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg bristled at dividing the world into dumb pipes and smart apps, as he says proponents of network neutrality have done, warning that "pitting network providers and applications developers against each other is a zero-sum game."

"It fundamentally misreads how innovation happens in a dynamic and collaborative industry," he told an audience at a broadband conference in Chicago, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "It understates the role of sound network management practices in the smooth functioning of the Internet today.  And it ignores the very real benefits that smart networks deliver for customers."

Speaking at Supercomm 09 and on the eve of the FCC's planned introduction of proposed network neutrality rules, Seidenberg said that if the FCC imposes a "burdensome regime of net regulation" on all parts of the internet industry, it could gunk up the "main growth engine for the future."

And, whatever the government does, if it does not require the same kind of transparency from applications developers, it will be favoring one set of competitors over another.

Seidenberg wasn't taking issue with increased transparency--one of the FCC’s two proposed new principles and rules--but he did say "we need to protect consumers by insisting on transparency in the provision of products and services by all Internet providers, including applications developers."

But he was taking issue with too tight reins on network management.

"The Verizon security team tells me that they monitor more than 5 billion – that’s “billion” with a “b” – security events per day on the global Internet," he said. "Because of the way they’re designed, our networks intercept the vast majority of those breaches before they harm us or our customers.  If we can’t differentiate between packets, we can’t prioritize emergency communications for first-responders … tele-surgery or heart-monitor readings for digital medicine … videoconferencing over spam for telecommuters.  The truth is, we have never provided ‘dumb pipes.’"

Saying he had not seen the FCC proposal and was talking instead of how the debate was being framed, he said: "We can’t move forward by pitting network providers and applications developers against each other in a zero-sum game, when the real promise of broadband is an expanding pie for everybody."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.