As his sole visual aid for this talk, David Isenberg uses the T-shirt of a conference participant that illustrates the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection protocol) layers. In addition to the officially recognized OSI layers, the T-shirt shows two more: financial and political. The notation on the political layer ("you are here") illustrates perfectly the current problem, according to Isenberg.
As proof, Isenberg cites what has happened among ISPs in the US. In 2000 there were hundreds of CLECs (competitive local exchange carriers) vying for new services, but FCC decisions between then and now have made line sharing and unbundled network services virtually impossible. The result is that today there are only a handful of companies left at the physical layer, and these companies are now trying to move up the stack to take over applications.
People who care about not stifling development and innovation at the application layer must pay attention to what is going on in Washington DC. This, says Isenberg, is what network neutrality is all about. The problem is that you need network management to handle congestion, and telcos have historically used this as an excuse to shut out competition. The key is to have "the pipes separate from the apps", says Isenberg, and therefore he proposes that lobbying in Washington should be about structural separation. Structural separation, maintains Isenberg, is the way to achieve network neutrality.
In 1997, David S. Isenberg wrote an essay entitled, "The Rise of the Stupid Network: Why the Intelligent Network was a Good Idea Once but Isn't Anymore". In it, Isenberg examined the technological bases of the existing telecom business model, laid out how the communications business would be changed by new technologies, foresaw today's cataclysms, and imagined tomorrow's new network.
Tom Evslin, a senior AT&T executive at that time, told The Wall Street Journal that The Rise of the Stupid Network, "was like a glass of cold water in the face" of AT&T's leaders. The Wall Street Journal called the essay "scathing . . . startling", and said, "it may soon assume cult status among the tech mavens that roam the World Wide Web." Communications Week International said that the essay "challenged the most sacred assumptions of the telecom world." Inevitably, the essay found wider acceptance outside of AT&T than within it. So in 1998, Isenberg left AT&T to found isen.com, inc. to help telecommunications companies understand the business implications of the newly emerging communications infrastructure.
Isenberg advises a number of new telecommunications companies and their investors. He serves as a member of TechBrains (the Merrill Lynch technology strategy advisory board). He sits on advisory boards of CallWave, LaunchCyte, Broadband Physics, Terabeam and YottaYotta. He is a Fellow of Glocom, the Institute for Global Communications of the International University of Japan, and he is a Founding Advisor of the World Technology Network.
In his 12-year career at AT&T (1985-1998), Isenberg was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff with AT&T Labs Research, the part of Bell Labs that stayed with AT&T after the 1996 “trivestiture.” Before that, he held AT&T Bell Labs technical positions in Consumer Long Distance, in Network Services, and in the PBX business unit. Before AT&T, Isenberg was employed by Mattel and Verbex, and did consulting work in voice processing for Milton Bradley, National Semiconductor, GTE Labs, and others. Isenberg holds a Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology (1977) but also learned much science growing up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
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