In a rare decision to take a position in public policy debate, Cisco Systems, the world's largest manufacturer of Internet routers, has asked Congress not to prevent carriers from charging Internet applications and content providers for improved network management and quality of service.
In letters last week from CEO John Chambers to Sen. Ted Stevens (R, AK) and Rep. Joe Barton (R, TX), who are steering telecom reform legislation through their respective committees in the Senate and the House, as well as in a statement released Wednesday, Cisco stressed the need to ensure users have the right to access the legal Web sites of their choice and run applications of their choice. Consumers should also be allowed to connect any compatible Internet Protocol device to the network.
When it came to network management issues, however, Cisco advised Congress regulate only if problems occur, not before. It also said network management teiring has a proper place in a competitive broadband market and will likely do more to improve the overall broadband experience for all.
Cisco's statement hit all the right notes:
Innovation inside the network is just as important as innovation in services and devices connected to the Internet. As the Internet becomes better, faster and more integral to our economy and personal lives, it is necessary for broadband Internet access providers to use innovative technology to manage their networks to provide quality of service and new features and services to meet evolving consumer needs. Cisco supports the use of network management tools by Internet access providers to improve the Internet experience as long as there is no anticompetitive effect. Specifically, Cisco supports:
ï Broadband Internet access service providers should remain free to engage in pro-competitive network management techniques to alleviate congestion, ameliorate capacity constraints, and enable new services.
ï Broadband Internet access service providers should remain free to offer additional services to supplement broadband Internet access, including bandwidth tiers, quality of service, security, anti-virus and anti-spam services, network management services, as well as to enter into commercially negotiated agreements with unaffiliated parties for the provision of such additional services.
Cisco, whose routers handle steer two-thirds of the world's Internet traffic, has $24.8 billion in sales in 2005, its best year since 2001. Much of its growth has been from incumbent phone companies that have begun upgrading their networks.