Carl Malamud: Internet Talk Radio, flame of the Internet. 

This is Geek of the Week, and we’re talk­ing to Geoff Huston, who’s tech­ni­cal man­ag­er for AARNET, the Australian Academic Research Network. Welcome to Geek of the Week, Geoff.

Geoff Huston: Thanks Carl, and g’day.

Malamud: So you’re from Australia. You have com­put­ers down there? 

Huston: One or two. You know, we actu­al­ly caught on to this trend a few years ago and and thought you know, this is some­thing we should actu­al­ly buy into.

Malamud: How big is the Australian Internet?

Huston: I think we’re now on a par with Germany, which con­sid­er­ing we have about one quar­ter of their pop­u­la­tion isn’t bad going. We have about 75,000 hosts con­nect­ed on the net­work right now.

Malamud: And how do you get into the Internet? What’s your way of con­nect­ing out to the out­side world?

Huston: We run a satel­lite link across the Pacific and come in on the West Coast. At this point we come into NASAs infra­struc­ture on the West Coast and feed into the rest of the Internet across the US that way.

Malamud: So you come via NASA’s net­work. Now, NASA is a mission-oriented oper­a­tion, the NASA Science Internet. They have fair­ly strict appro­pri­ate use poli­cies. How does an entire con­ti­nent become a client of NASA? And why aren’t you a client of NSF, or some­one else? 

Huston: Yes, get­ting a net­work start­ed is always an inter­est­ing thing, and at some point always you car­ry the bag­gage of your ini­tial efforts to get some­thing togeth­er. Startup costs in Australian were real­ly high, and the rea­son why they’re real­ly high is of course that the lit­tle inter­na­tion­al link costs total­ly dom­i­nat­ed every­thing. You know, when you’re com­ing across on a satel­lite bear­er, in the Pacific satel­lite costs are much high­er than transat­lantic. There’s not that much busi­ness. So, the ini­tial start­up costs were extreme.

NASA in effect said, We have a num­ber of require­ments with­in Australian of a gen­er­al sci­ence infra­struc­ture nature.” They were faced with the choice of run­ning their own ded­i­cat­ed links with extreme cost, or sim­ply say­ing, Well if we can help you out with a US-based half-circuit ini­tial­ly, can you do the oth­er side, the Australian half-circuit, and do domes­tic infrastructure?”

So it was a lit­tle bit of kick­off sup­port that real­ly start­ed us going. And as long as we stayed with­in a gen­er­al aca­d­e­m­ic and research ori­en­ta­tion, we have found the match with poli­cies has been good enough to work on.

Malamud: How big is that pipe to the out­side world?

Huston: Well this week it’s 768K. That’s a point of con­tention at this point because a coun­try that size, we’ve used every last scrap of band­width on it. We’re going to a 1.5 meg link in August.

Malamud: In August, okay. And is that going to be enough? Is a T1 line enough band­width for an entire country?

Huston: No. When we installed the 768K link in March, we had three weeks of rel­a­tive­ly clean ser­vice. But after three weeks the link was run­ning at 768K all through the day.

Malamud: What does that do to ser­vice? Does that degrade cat­a­stroph­i­cal­ly or is it just a grad­ual decline and things just get slow­er and slow­er and slower?

Huston: Well some things get slow­er and slow­er and slow­er. Some pack­ets actu­al­ly fight their way through quite dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Telnet’s a real­ly bad case of things get­ting quite slow. Odd enough, video and audio casts, those pack­ets man­ag­er to fight their way through the morass quite suc­cess­ful­ly. So, the degra­da­tion is uneven, if you will. Some appli­ca­tions are worse than others.

Malamud: Australia makes fair­ly exten­sive use of video and audio. If you look at the mul­ti­cast back­bone you’ll see that there’s quite a few Australian sites that are on this world­wide mul­ti­cas­t­ing vir­tu­al net­work. Is that an appro­pri­ate use of that scarce band­width out, and is there some­thing you can do to con­trol those users?

Huston: Well, the alter­na­tive is the plane sys­tem. And because of the way the air­line mar­ket itself works, planes in and out of the coun­try are also extreme­ly expen­sive objects. Viewed like that, bring­ing the world to a desk­top is a remark­ably cheap way of get­ting things togeth­er. And the only penal­ty, if you will, of par­tic­i­pat­ing in things like an IETF or RIPE meet­ings and so on is loss of sleep for day or two. The costs involved in so doing are just phe­nom­e­nal­ly dif­fer­ent. And as a coun­try, and as a coun­try that ori­ent­ed tech­ni­cal­ly and social­ly well towards North America and Europe, we cer­tain­ly have a strong inter­play with the tech­ni­cal activ­i­ty in both of those areas. And increas­ing­ly I think the gen­er­al sci­ence and research infra­struc­ture. So we see this area as being one where quite frankly there’s an enor­mous implic­it demand going on. And any­thing we can do to hard­en that to bring con­fer­ences back onto peo­ple’s desk­tops is going to make our ser­vice a ser­vice that’s real­ly quite desir­able in that country.

Malamud: So audio to video on net­works is not just a high-tech toy. You actu­al­ly are find­ing that is sav­ing trav­el mon­ey or increas­ing awareness?

Huston: Well it’s sav­ing trav­el mon­ey, but it’s big­ger than that. Research these days is a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort that’s inter­na­tion­al and mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary. And you know, it might be okay for some­one in America to hop on a plane to the East Coast on a fort­night­ly meet­ing, it might be okay to have meet­ings in Europe and America and get things done face to face. But when you look at a typ­i­cal sci­en­tist or a typ­i­cal aca­d­e­m­ic inside Australia, one trip a year is con­sid­ered to be…you know, you’ve reached the pin­na­cle of your pro­fes­sion at times. And the costs involved in trav­el and the time penal­ties, because it takes a cou­ple of days to get over the time lags, well, all that says trav­el is not an option that real­is­ti­cal­ly says we can involve thou­sands, tens of thou­sands of our tal­ent­ed peo­ple inside a pro­duc­tive area of research involve­ment. So from that point of view the Internet is…is crit­i­cal to us. It’s not just a research project, it is a real strat­e­gy for a coun­try. And we view it at that lev­el of importance.

Malamud: Are you find­ing that your users and your fund­ing agents also view that infra­struc­ture the same way, or to them or are you just a research project?

Huston: I think they’re say­ing to us, We’re watch­ing you quite close­ly.” I think the point is that at this lev­el, Go hard. Justify your mon­ey. There’s no free ride in this. But if you actu­al­ly man­age to demon­strate you’re capa­ble of pro­vid­ing us with real alter­na­tives, and capa­ble of giv­ing us new oppor­tu­ni­ties nation­al­ly, then sure we’ buy it. But we’ll buy it on the basis that there are oth­er ways of spend­ing the mon­ey. You’ll have to jus­ti­fy your existence.”

So this is not a like a Gore Bill from the top. This isn’t a show­er from heav­en. This is quite frankly, You do it right, you’ll get paid for your ser­vice. If you don’t, you won’t be relevant.”

Malamud: Do your cus­tomers pay or you or are you fund­ed by some committee?

Huston: Well I main­tain we’re actu­al­ly a user-pays net­work. We’re fund­ed by the con­stituents of the net­work, the uni­ver­si­ties, who act basi­cal­ly as under­writ­ers. We gath­er mon­ey from con­nect­ing the net­work to peo­ple we deal with with­in the country—various peo­ple who want to take research, and var­i­ous com­pa­nies that sup­ply us with goods and ser­vices. But in essence there’s very lit­tle gov­ern­ment input, and there nev­er has been. We’ve been forced to go through net­work­ing the hard way in say­ing, at every point along the line we’re gath­er­ing mon­ey from that user base. 

Now, that user base has tightly-committed bud­gets. They’re say­ing, We’re not gonna spend mon­ey on some­thing else. We’re gonna spend it on you. You bet­ter be a bet­ter fit. You bet­ter be able to deliv­er more than where we were spend­ing the mon­ey before.” If we can’t main­tain that con­tin­u­al con­tract of qual­i­ty, and that con­tin­u­al con­tract implic­it, of rel­e­vant ser­vice, then we’re out of the pic­ture. But so far I think we’ve been able to not only come to a com­pet­i­tive lev­el, we’ve out­stripped any oth­er avail­able means of doing this par­tic­u­lar job. There’s just sim­ply noth­ing else that offers us the capa­bil­i­ty, the range of ser­vice, at with­in orders of mag­ni­tude of the costs that we do it.

Malamud: Who are your users? Are the peo­ple the pay depart­ment chair­men in uni­ver­si­ties? Are they indi­vid­ual pro­fes­sors? Do you go out­side of that com­mu­ni­ty, out­side of the aca­d­e­m­ic world?

Huston: We do. We direct­ly ser­vice some 360 orga­ni­za­tions around Australia. Some thirty-eight of those are uni­ver­si­ties, of course. But of the rest we’re increas­ing­ly ser­vic­ing rel­e­vant areas of fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments. We’re increas­ing­ly ser­vic­ing com­mer­cial enti­ties that have research pro­grams or par­tic­i­pate in research, either the through its out­put or direct input at the start. And peo­ple who sell us goods and ser­vices. So, we’re using the net­work the way it should be used. I always believed that a net­work’s major pow­er is ubiq­ui­ty. That you’ve got to accom­mo­dat­ed a diver­si­ty of motives, the same way as a tele­phone sys­tem, from fig­ur­ing out what you’re gonna do next week­end to plac­ing a coun­try on a com­pet­i­tive posi­tion inside very strate­gic activities. 

So, you’ve got to accom­mo­date a broad range of moti­va­tions. The only way you do that is to make sure that every­one else is there. That what’s on your desk is bet­ter than a tele­phone and replaces it. And that’s the kind of atti­tude I think that’s going to see this becom­ing a pro­duc­tive and rel­a­tive­ly high lev­el of invest­ment activ­i­ty over the next four or five years.

Malamud: Geoff Huston, your net­work AARNET was found­ed fair­ly recent­ly, right. It’s just a few years old?

Huston: Yes, we start­ed this work in 1988. We’ve spent a lot of time inside that low-cost UUCP domain. And it was real­ly a thing that was burnt by its own suc­cess. We got to the point where the tele­phone sys­tem and low-speed modems were inca­pable of deliv­er­ing the back­log of mail until it got to the week­end. So that mes­sages run­ning from the East Coast to the West Coast were tak­ing six days. We’ve found it very dif­fi­cult to say well how can we improve it as a relayed-mail sys­tem. And if we’re gonna make a big invest­ment we might as well shoot for some­thing that was a ser­vice that affect­ed far more peo­ple than a small com­mu­ni­ty in mail at the time. So, in 1988 the deci­sion was made to chase fund­ing for an IP network. 

And the tim­ing I think was right at that point. Because until that time, it real­ly did have that con­no­ta­tion if you will of a high-risk research project. But by the time in 1989 we were actu­al­ly look­ing around it was a case of going to Kmart and look­ing at the range of routers on the shelves and say­ing well you know, I’ll have the green one, thanks.” Going to the check­out, buy­ing them and yeah, that was it.

Malamud: From the time you start­ed your fundrais­ing efforts to the time those routers were actu­al­ly installed nation­al­ly was a remark­ably short peri­od of time. Is that because routers had become Kmart items at the time?

Huston: We spent nine months doing this work, and eight months three weeks and about fif­teen days were spent mak­ing sure that the mon­ey algo­rithm was right. And around four days was spent on the router. You know, that kind of bal­ance if you will, the tech­nol­o­gy was by then sta­ble and read­i­ly pur­chasable. It was just off-the-shelf technology—which gave a lot of peo­ple warm fuzzies, too, because it smelt right. There was very lit­tle risk at that area.

So, from that point it was a quick effort. The actu­al instal­la­tion of the net­work across the entire coun­try was done across…sixty-odd sites, one way and anoth­er, inside three weeks. 

Malamud: And you basi­cal­ly just got on air­planes and drove cars and just went from site to site, threw the router in and off you went?

Huston: Pretty much so. There were two of us at the time, and we spent four weeks with­out see­ing each oth­er. I went north and he went south, and we met back again in four weeks. And we did a lot of the sites. We actu­al­ly did­n’t con­nect them. Because of course routers come with three plugs. One plugs into the wall sock­et, and that’s pret­ty obvi­ous because it sor­ta looks like a pow­er sock­et. One plugs into the Ethernet and that’s pret­ty obvi­ous because you can’t plug it into the wall. And the oth­er one just sim­ply plugged into the car­ri­er’s modem. And again it was a big square plug and it was the only place it could go. 

So typ­i­cal­ly by the time we got to the site, they’d turned it on. And of course we had arranged in the pur­chase to have them pre­con­fig­ured inside flash mem­o­ry. So that it was real­ly a case of black box tech­nol­o­gy. They could plug it in, turn it on, and it was up by the time we got there.

Malamud: So that takes care of the routers. Now, do you find you have an easy time get­ting that band­width with­in Australia? Is a tele­phone com­pa­ny part of your oper­a­tion? Are they one of your allies?

Huston: No, we are a straight com­mer­cial client. We actu­al­ly haven’t got any deals at all with the tele­phone car­ri­ers. At this point we sim­ply buy off the price book the same as any oth­er client of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny. In some ways it’s good.

In some ways what that says is we’re exposed to the true cost of net­work­ing from the start. We’re not inside a spe­cial pol­i­cy regime because of some weird pric­ing struc­ture. We’re actu­al­ly fac­ing a ser­vice at true cost. And the client base is there, again, at true cost. 

Malamud: Is it true cost? Do you find that the pric­ing that you pay—you have two-megabit links on your nation­al back­bone, right?

Huston: That’s correct.

Malamud: Is the price you pay a fair price, or should it be less, should it be more?

Huston: Well, as an inter­me­di­ary who buys and sells, if you will, then obvi­ous­ly it should be a lot lot less. 

It’s a strange sit­u­a­tion. I think at this par­tic­u­lar point car­ri­er pric­ing is based more on their mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy than it is on a tech­nol­o­gy argu­ment that says This is the cost of the raw mate­ri­als. This is the cost of our oper­a­tion. This is what we can actu­al­ly do in pric­ing.” But so often inside a small market—and Australia is in that kind of sense a small market—carrier oper­a­tions tend to pro­tect their exist­ing invest­ment. And gen­er­al­ly view new tech­nolo­gies with a degree of sus­pi­cion. So that their mar­ket­ing of say, frame relay in Australia, that does­n’t exist at this point. They’re not real­ly inter­est­ed in bring­ing in new prod­uct if it sim­ply strips cus­tomers of all the prod­uct. Until it—

Malamud: X.25 being the old­er prod­uct in this case.

Huston: In this case X.25. They real­ly want to pro­tect that X.25 base for a while longer to get their mon­ey back out of the orig­i­nal invest­ment. So, until cus­tomers actu­al­ly walk right out of them and start doing pri­vate frame relay, I’m not sure the car­ri­er would real­ly move. It’s an arti­fact I think of a very small marketplace.

Malamud: Your net­work is routers and long-distance lines. Is that all AARNET does? Are you just a tran­sit net­work or do you pro­vide ser­vices? Do you have help desks?

Huston: We do a few things. We cer­tain­ly do doorstop ser­vices to uni­ver­si­ties and the gov­ern­ment research oper­a­tions, so that we actu­al­ly do the entire loop and the equip­ment on that side, where we’re deal­ing with core clients, if you will, of the aca­d­e­m­ic and research sup­port oper­a­tion. For every­one else we pro­vide a point of access. We don’t do an awful lot in terms of ser­vice, out­side over the Help, it’s not work­ing. Let’s apply diag­nos­tic tools. Let’s call in line tech­ni­cians” and so on. 

In terms of help desks and sim­i­lar ser­vices we have said at this point to most of the uni­ver­si­ty sites, quite frankly the appli­ca­tions, the ser­vices, the tech­nolo­gies haven’t changed because there’s a line going out the door. The same tools that go up and down the cor­ri­dor, the same tools that go and pro­vide library ser­vices to peo­ple’s desk­tops, are the same tools that nego­ti­ate the globe. It’s I think per­haps inap­pro­pri­ate to have a nation­al car­ri­er solv­ing what real­is­ti­cal­ly are inter­nal issues about ser­vice and sup­port. And we have argued strong­ly along the lines of say­ing, You will get bet­ter par­tic­i­pa­tion on a site, and you will get more involve­ment and more sup­port for your own invest­ment in fiber-optic cables and routers and so on site.” Which is a much big­ger invest­ment than ours, by the way. You will get big­ger pay­off if you pro­vide sup­port that’s direct and local, and attuned to your own site’s characteristics.” 

So from that point of view I’d argue not only haven­t’t we done an awful lot in terms of help desks and cours­es and so on, strate­gi­cal­ly per­haps it’s the wrong move.

Malamud: I could see with a large uni­ver­si­ty where that would def­i­nite­ly hold true. And that they need to build their own local reliance, and prob­a­bly have the abil­i­ty to do that. But how do you han­dle kinder­gartens, and grade schools, and gov­ern­ment offices that don’t have com­put­ers. Is that part of your mis­sion to bring the Internet into those types of organizations?

Huston: At this point it’s not part of the mis­sion of the net­work per se. But obvi­ous­ly those peo­ple who are involved in this activ­i­ty, includ­ing myself, see a rea­son for our activ­i­ties of say­ing we’re set­ting up a tele­phone sys­tem for the next cen­tu­ry. And if you’re real­ly look­ing at a goal that says this tech­nol­o­gy has a lot to offer; this tech­nol­o­gy is going to be widely-deployed; then yes, there is an argu­ment that says we’ve actu­al­ly got to care­ful­ly con­sid­er how to get indi­vid­u­als in areas that aren’t a rich infra­struc­ture on to the network. 

But I would claim rather than sim­ply look­ing at help desks and sup­port agen­cies, you’re real­ly look­ing at a mod­el it says, so far the Internet has relied upon con­nect­ing large-scale net­works togeth­er. But there’s a new edge around there, and the edge is an access mod­el. That rather than a large net­work, there’s a PC or a cou­ple of of PCs. How do you sup­port that? For 5‑year-olds, sure. For 18-year-olds, sure. For peo­ple at home. How do you actu­al­ly inte­grate ser­vices onto that that give that indi­vid­ual, or that small work­group, enough con­fi­dence that they can dri­ve the tech­nol­o­gy? Enough con­fi­dence to feel that yes, there’s help out there if I need it. But at the same time say well, there’s no rules. It’s a very large net­work and there’s a mas­sive oppor­tu­ni­ty for every­one, to gath­er knowl­edge, to work togeth­er and to com­mu­ni­cate. And that mod­el is some­thing we need to work at glob­al­ly. And it’s as I said, I think it’s more than help desks and train­ing courses.

Malamud: Well what is it? It sounds like you’re say­ing you’re on your own at that point. That it’s a huge net­work and here it is, and have fun. Is that the way that we should be spread­ing the Internet? Relying on peo­ple to read the books and under­stand how it works? Or should we be spoon-feeding em? Should the inter­faces be eas­i­er to use, for example.

Huston: When I go to the pub­lic library down the road, at times I just wan­der through stacks. And I don’t real­ly know what I’m after. I’m look­ing for a cov­er that’s got a lot­ta col­ors. You know. Pick up a book and just sim­ply browse it in a very serendip­i­tous man­ner. And that kind of brows­ing is extreme­ly excit­ing. You uncov­er things, you know, vague sort of ref­er­ences you’d heard in the past, and pick out some­thing that catch­es one’s imag­i­na­tion. And I think is a real role for that. 

There are oth­er rea­sons why I go, asso­ci­at­ed with my work or what­ev­er. And I would argue that in terms of struc­tur­ing and envi­ron­ment on a screen, in terms of struc­tur­ing a ser­vice, then real­is­ti­cal­ly per­haps it’s ser­vice providers who wish to struc­ture and spoon-feed rather than that net­work infra­struc­ture itself. And like it’s not as if I deliv­er a tele­phone that says I’m sor­ry,” you know, just these ten num­bers. From there you can go into oth­er places, but orig­i­nal­ly only ten num­bers and I’ve spoon-fed it for you.” You know, we actu­al­ly have the tele­phone sys­tem in all its won­der­ful glo­ry and depres­sion, you know. It’s a tele­phone sys­tem. I think at the provider lev­el, at a tech­nol­o­gy lev­el, it is lim­it­less. And it is, at this point, appar­ent­ly bound­less. We haven’t yet seen those edges. And to start cre­at­ing arti­fi­cial bound­aries very ear­ly on…I don’t think per­haps is the right way of going about it.

Malamud: So it would not be right for you for exam­ple to decide that cer­tain ser­vices are not appro­pri­ate on the net­work? Are you just a tran­sit net­work in that sense?

Huston: Very much so. It’s often been argued, and we have I think as with any oth­er net­work, gone through the debate of where the net­work oper­a­tion starts and stops. I’ve con­sis­tent­ly tried to put for the case of say­ing Look, we switch pack­ets, and our job is to real­ly switch pack­ets well.” After that, every­one else has got a job to do. And it’s a very valid job. It’s not for me to actu­al­ly deter­mine how peo­ple use the net­work. It’s up to them to use it and jus­ti­fy their own expen­di­ture in so doing.

Malamud: Is your job dif­fer­ent because you’re in Australia? Is your job as a tran­sit net­work, as a nation­al net­work, dif­fer­ent than let’s say some­body in Europe doing a sim­i­lar function?

Huston: There are lev­els that I think are sim­i­lar but also there are things that are very ver dif­fer­ent. Within Australia because of the very high cost of tran­sit­ing the Pacific to get to any­where else, the oper­a­tion with­in Australia is much more of say­ing there real­ly isn’t a lot of scale for 3,000 providers. It real­ly is quite a valid case eco­nom­i­cal­ly to say that the costs involved say if one provider does it open­ly, clean­ly, and well, then it’s a remark­ably cheap and com­pet­i­tive ser­vice to a coun­try. And when I com­pare that with­in Europe, then there’s a valid case with­in Europe because of the high­er den­si­ty to say that dif­fer­ent com­peti­tors come in and offer ser­vices. And that makes the role of the net­work provider one of inter­ac­tion with oth­er providers on a much more com­plex scale. We don’t have that kind of mod­el with­in Australia. And per­haps I think that’s giv­en us breath­ing space to offer a clear­er vision of what a net­work can be to an entire coun­try. And I sus­pect that if you divert that atten­tion to say, [A/I S?] bound­aries here and [A/I S?] bound­aries there, sure it’s valid work if it’s nec­es­sary. But at times your key peo­ple are doing low lay­er work when per­haps they should be there say­ing it’s a very very big and strate­gic thing that we’re doing here. 

Malamud: Well instead of lower-layer work, what are some of the upper-layer things you wor­ry about? I noticed you have a big Archie serv­er, for exam­ple. You have a ser­vice called Alex. Maybe you can explain what that is and why it makes sense in Australia.

Huston: Certainly. Within our net­work cost struc­ture, at this point half of our expen­di­ture on band­width goes across the Pacific. And the way our cost pro­jec­tions work, over two years around three-quarters of our net­work expen­di­ture is going to be on going across the Pacific. That’s an extra­or­di­nary amount of mon­ey to try and access sites. 

We did a quick analy­sis a cou­ple of years ago and actu­al­ly looked at where FTP traf­fic was head­ing and found that close to 3040% of FTP traf­fic was just hit­ting ten sites. And from that point came the con­clu­sion that if we bought a work­sta­tion and set up a three- or four-gig mir­ror, then for a frac­tion of the cost of one mon­th’s rental, we’d have an extreme­ly fast, local, accu­rate, cache. So from that point came the Archie project, which was a project to set up an Archie serv­er but to actu­al­ly also not only pro­vide the point­ers, but to point local­ly as much as pos­si­ble, to bring in the most pop­u­lar things. 

What we found then, though, was to move on a bit to say, how can we cache? Well, obvi­ous­ly FTP is not a tool that implic­it­ly lends itself to caching. Because nor­mal­ly the client goes direct­ly to the serv­er and pulls the file over. So what we said was, can we set up a file sys­tem on that par­tic­u­lar machine that acts as if it’s the entire FTP archive of the world, in the same way as ASF or NSF offer wide-area file ser­vices, that map a direc­to­ry hier­ar­chy into the FTP world. And that’s the Alex file sys­tem that sits there. And in essence what it says is the first per­son to wan­der into Archie and pull a file using Alex actu­al­ly does a trans­fer live. But obvi­ous­ly when a file gets announced, nor­mal­ly four or five peo­ple are going to pick it up inside a few min­utes; and over the next week thir­ty, forty; and if it’s a pop­u­lar one, thou­sands. If it’s sit­ting there it sim­ply gets served local­ly. Presto, the amount of pres­sure on the inter­na­tion­al link gets reduced slight­ly. And from that point of view, giv­en the costs involved in set­ting it up, it’s been quite a winner.

Malamud: You’re a trustee of the Internet Society, an inter­na­tion­al pro­fes­sion­al asso­ci­a­tion on the Internet. Does this group help you in Australia? Do we need an Internet Society to help inte­grate Australia into the glob­al community?

Huston: I think we do, but I think that the rea­sons why peo­ple look towards such a body vary from con­ti­nent to con­ti­nent and region to region. I sense with­in Australia an Internet Society pro­vides some degree of abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate. In essence it’s not a case of being a relaxed consumer—or a very anx­ious con­sumer of some­one else’s tech­nol­o­gy and some­one else’s devel­op­men­tal mod­el. It actu­al­ly says to Australia, to a coun­try that has extreme­ly high aspi­ra­tions on tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment, We wel­come your par­tic­i­pa­tion.” And at that lev­el, it’s an ini­tia­tive which I think is an extreme­ly pro­duc­tive one from out perspective.

If the Internet effort was sit­ting quite square­ly with­in the United States polit­i­cal bound­aries, and if the fund­ing con­tin­ued to be a strate­gic invest­ment dom­i­nat­ed by the US fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, then obvi­ous­ly we would find our abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate some­what low­er. And in that sense, gain­ing a nation­al com­mit­ment, say­ing to gov­ern­ments, say­ing to com­mer­cial bod­ies, say­ing to the mar­ket at large, This tech­nol­o­gy is real­ly some­thing that offers you ten‑, maybe even twenty-year strate­gies.” Without that abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate, with­out see­ing the Internet as a tech­nol­o­gy removed from the ini­tial play­ers is a big­ger thing, then one can say that hon­est­ly, that yes you can par­tic­i­pate; yes this is some­thing that if you wish you can invest in it too.

Malamud: Well how do we get peo­ple in Australia par­tic­i­pat­ing? Obviously you can. You’ve got a trav­el bud­get. But how do we get the young engi­neer to become part of this world? Does that per­son fly to the INET con­fer­ences once a year? Do they fly out to the IETFs in Amsterdam or in the United States? Or— How do we get these peo­ple inte­grat­ed into that world community?

Huston: We men­tioned before about audio and video ser­vices on the net­work, and quite frankly because with­in a coun­try like Australia trav­el bud­gets begin at the mid­dle or end of one’s career rather than at the start, the video and audio tool is going to be the way that we’re going to ignite the pas­sions and the moti­va­tions of grad­u­ates and grad­u­ate stu­dents, I believe. Within Australia those such peo­ple will need a track record, if you will, of par­tic­i­pa­tion before they can put their hand up for fund­ing. Now, we’re work­ing very hard on a mod­el that was sim­i­lar to Europe around three or four years ago of try­ing to in some way set up a local area of engi­neer­ing, and local activ­i­ty, and say well, if you par­tic­i­pate in that at your cost, then we will try and get you to meet­ings at our cost as a net­work provider. 

But at this stage such think­ing is quite ear­ly on. And I would real­ly say that if you asked today what the tool is, then the tool is I can bring the IETF to your desk­top. That’s not hard. So, you can par­tic­i­pate. And you should par­tic­i­pate. If you take it from there, then if you take on more com­mit­ments, if you start doing work­ing group chairs, then your argu­ment for sup­port from the host insti­tu­tion where they’re employed and their argu­ment of sup­port from the net­work provider, becomes far solid­er. And their argu­ment for strat­e­gy, if you will, of say­ing, We’re bring­ing tech­nol­o­gy back into the coun­try to be devel­oped,” becomes a very clean one.

Malamud: Well thank you very much Geoff Huston. This has been Geek of the Week and we’ve been talk­ing to Geoff Huston from AARNET in Australia.

Huston: Thanks, Carl. 

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