Scott Bradner: I got my first email account on the ARPANET in 1972, and have had con­tin­u­ous email con­nec­tiv­i­ty since then. In the mid-1980s, opened up the ARPANET and then lat­er on the TCP/IP net­works to the Harvard campus—I work at Harvard University. Put in the Harvard core cam­pus net­work in that time­frame. I was the head of the tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee for Harvard’s net­work, for a region­al net­work in the New England area, and for the National Science Foundation asso­ci­at­ed region­al net­works around the coun­try in the mid-90s. And then joined the Internet Engineering Task Force, 1990. Was appoint­ed Area Director for Operational Requirements Area, 1993. I Stayed in that role for four years, then was appoint­ed the Area Director for Transport Area and stayed in that role for six years. So, I was on the IESG, the stan­dards approval body for the IETF from 1993 to 2003.

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments or move­ments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant.

Somebody asked me a few years ago what was the biggest sur­prise. Being involved in the Internet from the very begin­ning, the real Internet start­ed January 1, 1983 when the TCP/IP pro­to­cols were put out. And the Web start­ed in 93. So, back in the late 80s, in the mid­dle 80s, I was using the net dai­ly all the time. It was mag­ic. You just did mag­ic things and mag­ic things hap­pened. Email was all text-based.

The biggest sur­prise I’ve ever had about the Internet is that my mom surfed. It nev­er occurred to me in the ear­ly 80s that my moth­er would ever know­ing­ly use the Internet. It was a toy—it was a geek thing. It was for sci­en­tists, it was for researchers, it was for tech­ni­cal peo­ple. I expect­ed her to use it with­out know­ing it, because I expect­ed it to be an under­lay­ment for a lot of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. But I did­n’t expect her to use it. The Web changed all of that. The Web made it so that nor­mal peo­ple could use this thing. And that was my biggest sur­prise. That was the sort of eure­ka moment, when mom said, I want to do this.”

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

Like the weath­er over any con­ti­nent, it varies. There are thun­der­storms in places, and there’s cool weath­er in oth­ers, and there’s sig­nif­i­cant tur­bu­la­tion oth­er places. So, the weath­er over the United States in the last six months has been tremen­dous­ly vari­able. One of the hottest sum­mers on record in the Boston area, which is where I live, fol­low­ing a very cold win­ter. Lot of snow. Lot of rain. Very very heavy rain this spring. And that’s pret­ty much the way I think of what’s going on in the net.

We have very tur­bu­lent weath­er when it comes to gov­ern­ments being scared of the net, the Arab Spring kind of thing. And we have smooth sail­ing when it comes to tech­nol­o­gy. Technology is going very well. We have things like Skype and the like, which are incred­i­bly pow­er­ful, very game-changing tech­nolo­gies. Netflix and all of those things that are run­ning over. And those are great. Those are about as sun­ny as you can get. Sunny and clear as you can get. Course if your busi­ness is being dis­rupt­ed by the same tech­nolo­gies, you don’t think it’s sunny.

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

I think there’s a num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties. One of the pos­si­bil­i­ties is that this becomes a Disney-controlled TiVo. That the con­tent providers are right that all we want to do is watch couch pota­toes watch­ing movies. I don’t think that’s like­ly, but that’s cer­tain­ly one sce­nario, and the copy­right indus­try wants the Internet designed in such a way that’ll facil­i­tate that.

Another sce­nario is all gov­ern­ment con­trol, like in China where you have to reg­is­ter to use it. You have to have basi­cal­ly a dri­ver’s license to use it and you can’t talk out­side of the coun­try with­out being fil­tered. Can’t even talk inside the coun­try with­out being fil­tered. That’s not just China, there’s many coun­tries like that.

The ulti­mate one, the IETF mod­el, would be the end-to-end mod­el, which is where I get to decide what appli­ca­tions I’m going to run, and I talk to you about what appli­ca­tions we’re going to work togeth­er on. Dramatic new devel­op­ments in tech­nol­o­gy and ser­vices and games, or what­ev­er. And those are the pri­ma­ry three applicants. 

I guess the fourth one is it’s com­plete­ly run by car­ri­ers, where the tele­phone com­pa­nies and the cable com­pa­nies decide for you what you need, with­out both­er­ing to ask you. 

So it’s…some very neg­a­tive views, which all but one of those is very neg­a­tive. The very positive—the Pollyannaish one is the end-to-end mod­el of the IETF.

Intertitle: Is there action that should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

It’s most­ly edu­ca­tion of gov­ern­ments. The Internet has brought brought phe­nom­e­nal eco­nom­ic health to the coun­tries that have embraced it, but has also brought huge social change to oth­ers that have embraced it. And telling coun­tries that they ben­e­fit more than they are hurt by it, edu­cat­ing them why that’s the case, edu­cat­ing them that the open Internet, the open stan­dards process, the open devel­op­ment, is ben­e­fi­cial to them and their cit­i­zens, is the pri­ma­ry vehi­cle to try and get a pos­i­tive result.