Intertitle: Briefly describe your most vital contributions; what led you to become an Internet Hall of Fame member?
Michael Stanton: I was working in Brazil since 1971. But it wasn’t for another sixteen years before I got involved in something related to this matter of Internet. And in 1987, I managed to provoke an open national discussion about the need for something like the NSFNET, which had just started operating in the United States. And so that was where I started, I suppose.
The other things I think that are worthy of contribution are building the first state-wide network within the state I live in, Rio de Janeiro. That was in 1989, ’91. And in 1990, building the first long-distance TCP/IP network, which was adopted, this technology was adopted, for the national network project which was underway by then and implemented in 1992.
At RNP, which is the name of the organization which… It was firstly the name of the project which built the first Internet. It’s not the name of the organization which runs it today. And since 2002 I’ve been working there. I was originally seconded from my university. And I helped to extend the performance envelope of our networks during the next few years. I’ve been there for what, 17 years now. And the technology has changed, and we’ve all been helping in our different ways to adopt the newer technologies to meet the needs of the community we serve, which is the research and education community in Brazil.
I’ve also worked with collaborative projects with university research groups. Since I’m from basically a university background that’s been very easy. I’m well-accepted by my former peers within this region, and we’ve been developing for many years advanced services for our users on this network.
I’ve also been involved in network development, particularly long-distance optical networks. The participation in the RedCLARA network. RedCLARA was created to interconnect Latin American countries. I targeted sixteen countries and about twelve or thirteen of these take part. One of these was…well: José Soriano from Peru was involved in some of the first networks there. But this phase came later. He missed out on that.
And I think the international collaborations are worth mentioning. Because for the last fifteen years or so, I’ve been much involved in collaboration with other networking organizations in other countries. There’s the CLARA network, there’s the US networks, and the European networks, and we have had a lot of interaction concerning how best to provide the connections we need in order to make a global Internet.
Intertitle: What are the biggest challenges you had to overcome to achieve success; how did you overcome them? Was there an “aha” moment, a period of impact or a breakthrough realization or a steady flow?
Stanton: It took some time after I discovered about the existence of NSFNET in 1985, ’86. There was a time when suddenly things crystallized in my head. You could call it a eureka moment or an epiphany or something like that when I decided that this is something that really I needed to be involved in. And from that time on, the Internet has been an important part of my professional life. And more recently of course, of everything else which we do.
Intertitle: Which people, experiences or developments were most crucial in your professional success and its impact?
Stanton: Well since I’m from a university background, then it has been most important that I have had the support and encouragement of colleagues in this community. And this has happened both from the universities I’ve worked at—I’ve worked at three whilst I’ve been in Brazil—and also the scientific societies which I’ve also had contact with. And these together have been important in many ways for defining things to do and for being able to accomplish them.
The people in the university community work a lot in collaborations, and the Internet is good because it to not only allows you a space for collaborating in order to build it, and extend it, and make it more functional, but also it provides the services which are important for that. So these are sort of…they work together and that is great.
There are, because of this startoff, some particular people to have been important in this trajectory of mine. There are several present members of the Internet Hall of Fame who I’ve had contact with as a result of this initial interest in the Internet. The first of those was Glenn Ricart. Glenn is one of the pioneers. He came to Brazil…actually 1985, the year of the NSFNET. And he came to try to encourage people in the state of Rio to perform a twinning operation with the state of Maryland. Apparently there is some kind of formal link between the two states. And he came to see me at the university where I was working. And it was news to me. That’s why I didn’t really react very well. But he also talked to the scientific computing center in Rio de Janeiro, LNCC.
Intertitle: What are your hopes for the future Internet? Your fears? What action should be taken now for the best future?
Michael Stanton: The technology which enables networks is advancing strongly at the moment. You see this mostly in the development of optical networks and also of radio networks with 5G progress which is going on at the moment. And so these are going to make it possible to make networking cheaper by providing more capacity or for enabling use by more people for doing more complex things. These are good things.
The R&D networks, the research and education networks, have to accompany this. I mean, if the research and education network is not capable of offering services which are more advanced than the commercial networks, then the reason for having them tends to go away.
And this is something which we believe has to be stressed, that there are users which cannot be served by the commercial networks at the moment at a decent price. Everything eventually comes down to price and the idea of being able to have aggregated networks which can be used by high-performance users as well as the less-aggressive people, if you like, can be built and operated economically if you have the right conditions.
Intertitle: What advice do you have for the next generation working in your field?
Stanton: One of the activities we are involved in at RNP is to try to encourage—or to encourage, actually—the development of new services and applications. And we in fact finance projects with university groups to be able to do this. Initially this was to provide services for our own network, to offer to our users. But there are more general applications than just our networks. They’re also for other people’s networks. And so one of the big things is to show that there are a means of making money and a living out of developing these services.
Intertitle: What has surprised you most about the Internet as it has developed?
Stanton: When the Internet began, you had to have a wired connection to some place which was on the network. So everything had to have wires, copper wires, going to the—or a radio link perhaps, a fixed radio link. These are the two alternatives. And it was not imaginable at that time that it would be so easy to make— I don’t know it’s easy, but it has been done for a number of years now, I’ve been using a mobile telephone and its Internet access for several years now.
Intertitle: What are the most positive Internet trends emerging today? What are the most worrisome challenges today?
Stanton: I don’t know whether it’s pie in the sky, but it would be nice to have some kind of standards of truthfulness and fairness in the use of the Internet, and to increase its coverage around the world.
Internet Hall of Fame profile