Vint Cerf at the TV Festival

Vint Cerf: The Alternative McTaggert

Vint gave an alternative McTaggert speech this year. The official one was by Jeremy Paxman on Friday, discussing the future of TV and the trust situation it currently finds itself in. Vint gave a slight variation on the same speech I saw at Google earlier in the year, calling out the TV and IPTV issues. (that was not blogged, due to the change in Google rules about their tech series, but it was almost exactly the same talk)

One key trend was that consumers are more and more becoming producers which is challenging the asymmetry of the connection speeds where download is far greater then upload speeds for most consumer connections. The increase of video is huge, with Vint showing a graph of daily usage and YouTube traffic taking a major proportion as people watch more and more video. One question from the audience regarding the capacity of the web to continue to carry the increasing video traffic = he believes that there is no problem and there is plenty of spare capacity. The main issue is the last mile, as few companies are using fibre for that.

Vint touched on neutrality; his initial designs were neutral – the network does not care – it;s an end to end process, only the ends need to know what is on the net. The network needs to just pass the packets. The network is agnostic. this neutrality has been important in creating and encouraging innovation. There has never been need to ask permission. The impact of ISPs restricting the access can suffocate innovation.

He spoke for a while on digital distribution, and how streaming is not the only option. With increased storage and increased bandwidth, you can look at delivering faster than live or slower than live, moving it to storage and then watching at a time of choice. The web, with its ability to deliver packets of any kind, can be used to deliver a far richer experience, adding metadata, subtitles, advertising, interactive videos etc. Looking forward, we need to look at the treatment of IP. In an media where material is easy to copy and distribute, should we pay on copies? What are the alternatives?

The reception overall was good, a surprising addition to a TV Festival. Interestingly, at another session it was commented that people were surprised at some of the things that were mentioned.

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