Small net firms will drive more jobs, says Vint Cerf

US Congress has set aside $7.2 billion from the economic stimulus package specifically to expand broadband access throughout the country.

But Vint Cerf, widely regarded as one of the fathers of the internet, worries that even that staggering sum won't be enough if it isn't spent properly.

Speaking at the Computer History Museum in the heart of Silicon Valley, Cerf told a small group of tech policy advocates that priority must go to small businesses and entrepreneurs ahead of incumbent internet players if the stimulus package is to be successful.

"I'm not trying to argue here that all incumbents are bad, but I am thinking that if the stimulus is intended to create new jobs, it's more common that new jobs are created with new companies," Cerf said. "Small businesses are the backbone of the workforce in the US."

During the freewheeling discussion, Cerf also warned that delays in implementing the next generation of internet addresses, called IPv6, could mean that the supply of internet addresses runs out as early as next year.

He also criticized the comparatively low-speed broadband offerings in the US, noting that Japanese internet users enjoy speeds as high as one gigabit per second while most Americans struggle along at one or two megabits per second (Mbps). "It almost makes me want to move to Kyoto," Cerf sighed wistfully.

Cerf took the opportunity to emphasize the need for so-called "net neutrality" standards to maintain open access to the internet. Rather than handing over access decisions to the large corporations that control the internet's backbone, Cerf urged adopting non-discriminatory policies.

"We need non-discriminatory access to internet capacity," he said.

"Whether we need a law to do that or not is still in debate."

A former colleague of Cerf's on the FCC's Technological Advisory Council went one better. Dewayne Hendricks stepped up to the microphone and suggested creating regional peering point centers that would act like digital co-ops to hand data packets around on the internet without requiring. Eventually, the cooperative network could become an internet backbone alternative.

Calling the idea "a very sensible solution," Cerf said it mirrors what the National Science Foundation did when it operated an academic network within the larger internet between 1986 and 1995.