Vint Cerf's Congressional Testimony on IP Telephony

At the May 7, 1998 House Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on electronic commmerce Vint Cerf and Rep. Boucher (D-VA) had the following exchange on IP telephony and universal service.  Vint Cerf had already stated that voice is migrating to IP telephony.  This transcript was produced from handwritten notes and a poor quality audio recording.  This transcript is inacurate and unreliable.

Boucher: "That leads me to (several?) questions.  The first of which is: Obviously, there is some implication for universal service, or for traditional level of service in high cost areas.  With that kind of migration of telephone traffic on (to) the Internet, would you agree, as you have suggested, that the medium should not alter policies that are traditional with regard to taxation, that we should also not  let the medium alter policies that are traditional with regard to universal service supports, and impose upon internet service providers an obligation to bear their fair share of universal service support?

Cerf:  Let me (hammer a?) technical point.  Some people, in fact many people, get access to the Internet through the switched telephone network.   They use the same facilities to access the Internet that they would otherwise use to connect to a telephone.  And to the extent that that was being used, that the same switching systems was being used, to carry Internet telephony, or Internet packets, it does not seem unreasonable to me, to apply that, to require that universal service (__?) to that piece of the switched telephone network.  On the other hand, Internet services do not necessarily have to go through that (plant?).  They can go through alternate access methods.  We heard about some today.  (__?) cable modems, for example, point to point links, (__?).  They don't go through the (__?) at all.  We now have to ask ourselves, what is the definition of the universal service are we trying to support.  I cannot answer that question without understanding better the nature of change of service that you interested in making universally accessable.  If it is voice it is one thing.  If it is something else, then ...

Boucher:  Let us suppose for the purpose of this question that it is voice.

Cerf:  In that case, it seems to me that the universal service requirement still rests very strongly on the existing switched voice ...

Boucher: But to the extent that in your last example the Internet telephony (__?) does not rely on the switched network at all, but migrates to the Internet protocol completely in (__?), should not then the operator of that service bear a universal service fund responsibility?

Cerf:  I don't think so (__?).  The reason I don't think so, is that the original voice service relied on certain investments, (__?), and those investments were the ones trying to provide subsidies for the costs of those investments, to provide subsidies to assure that voice service be supplied through that company.   I am not sure that the same economics apply in the Internet.  And so I dont think (__?).  I am not sure we do this to achieve the objective in the same fashion.

Boucher: I am not surprised by the answer (__?).  I think that this is a subject that we will continue to discuss obviously here and elsewhere.