Michael Stanton: Good evening. As you maybe noticed, Brazil is rep­re­sent­ed here in the Internet Hall of Fame by three typ­i­cal Brazilians. There’s Tadao Takahashi. There’s Demi Getschko. And there’s myself. And we all came togeth­er in the 1980s to be able to help to con­struct the first Internet net­work in Brazil. This had a series of aspects. I only met the two of them dur­ing this process, and it was an inter­est­ing one because it was con­duct­ed part­ly with­in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. I was a uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor. I have been from when I went to Brazil in 1971 until my retire­ment five years ago. 

And dur­ing this time in the 80s, I was work­ing as the head of depart­ment of com­put­er sci­ence at the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro. And my first activ­i­ty con­nect­ed with net­works was just using…how shall I put it, local area net­works. And then, I’ve always been inter­est­ed in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and also a bit in geog­ra­phy. I read about the NSFNET. NSFNET was start­ed, engi­neered, in 1985. And the news of this arrived in Brazil a lit­tle bit lat­er because at the time we had no good elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tions. You had to wait for the jour­nals to arrive by sur­face mail and all that kind of stuff. But I was so impressed by what I read about what was going on in this that I real­ly decid­ed that this was what we need­ed in order to be able to com­mu­ni­cate ade­quate­ly in the aca­d­e­m­ic community. 

And so, I used the con­tacts I had in dif­fer­ent areas to try to pro­voke a dis­cus­sion about such a goal. And there were two meet­ings which I helped to orga­nize in that year, 1987. One was just the peo­ple that were in the com­put­ing and net­work­ing area. And this also includ­ed, cold, peo­ple from our NSF called CNPq, who asked me to orga­nize a larg­er meet­ing at the uni­ver­si­ty of São Paulo some months lat­er, to which about forty, forty-five peo­ple came. And these peo­ple rep­re­sent­ed a part of the gov­ern­ment, many of the research groups in dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines, and also the state tele­phone monop­oly, which was to prove a one of the obsta­cles in the path of being able to do what we want­ed to do. 

But we went ahead and defined at this meet­ing what were the obsta­cles and how we’d like to over­come them. And the result of this was that two years lat­er, the Brazilian gov­ern­ment launched a project called RNP, that’s the National Research Network in Portuguese, and Tadao Takahashi was appoint­ed as the coor­di­na­tor of this project. And short­ly after­wards he invit­ed Demi and myself to join him, and togeth­er we worked in col­lab­o­ra­tion in order to deliv­er what was pro­posed at that meet­ing two years earlier. 

It took us three years. And they were very inter­est­ing years. We had inter­ac­tion for instance with peo­ple in Latin America dur­ing this time. There was an inter­na­tion­al meet­ing held in Rio de Janeiro which I helped orga­nize but I did­n’t take much part in as far as the inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions were concerned. 

But we end­ed up in 1992 with a nation­al back­bone net­work which touched eleven of the twenty-seven con­stituent parts of Brazil at the vast speed of 64 kilo­bits a sec­ond, or 9.6 kilo­bits a sec­ond. It’s fun­ny. This marks I sup­pose you could say in ret­ro­spect the dig­i­tal divide between our parts of the world and North America. You know, we had this vast dif­fer­ence between the speeds which were then oper­at­ing on the NSFNET and our own. 

However, that was a chal­lenge. RNP was estab­lished as I say in 1992 as a net­work. The fol­low­ing year, I moved back to the uni­ver­si­ty because the option for me to con­tin­ue with RNP was to stop being a pro­fes­sor and start being a…living off of a grant, and that was­n’t real­ly fea­si­ble with the num­ber of chil­dren I had at that time. 

So I just start­ed revert­ing to what was going on and the prob­lems in the uni­ver­si­ties and I had a very hap­py few years inter­act­ing there with the new uni­ver­si­ty I went to. I was at the Catholic University in 87 and then I moved to the UFF, the Federal University in Niterói next to Rio. And that was how I spent the next eight years. 

In 1995—this is important—the com­mer­cial Internet came to Brazil. After two years of an RNP work­ing and read­ing about what you could do on the Internet, there was a vast clam­or for com­mer­cial ser­vices. And in fact RNP was enrolled in this process of help­ing to set up the com­mer­cial Internet. At the same time we had a new gov­ern­ment in that year, 1995, whose objec­tives includ­ed to break up the tele­com monop­oly. Which was an essen­tial part of remov­ing obsta­cles to bring­ing invest­ment into this kind of activ­i­ty. And so that was a very tumul­tuous peri­od which as I say, I missed out on quite a lot. 

However, RNP’s involve­ment was sig­nif­i­cant because their back­bone, which by then was some­thing right 2 meg con­nec­tions, was wide­ly used as an alter­na­tive to the state monopoly’s net­work and pro­vid­ed options thus for providers to be able to take their traf­fic to the exchange points which were start­ing to appear. 

Tadao had left by 1996, and his suc­ces­sor was José Luís Ribeiro. José Luís was work­ing before that at a uni­ver­si­ty in Rio also, and he was alarmed at the idea that there was a lot of dis­cus­sion at that time of aban­don­ing alto­geth­er the sup­port by the gov­ern­ment of a nation­al research and edu­ca­tion net­work. And he advanced a new pro­pos­al, which was to con­vert the RNP project into a non­prof­it com­pa­ny which would then be con­tract­ed by the gov­ern­ment on a reg­u­lar basis as a part of the nation­al bud­get to oper­ate and run the net­work. And this was done about 1999, 2000. And this set the stage for what was going to hap­pen after that. 

What hap­pened after that was that José Luís decid­ed he want­ed to be part of the com­mer­cial Internet also. And so he left RNP and looked for anoth­er job. His suc­ces­sor was Nelson Simões, who has been direc­tor gen­er­al of RNP now since 2001. And I was already known to him because the uni­ver­si­ty I had been at in 1987, he was also there. And in 2002 he invit­ed me to rejoin RNP as a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors and then to work togeth­er to solve the prob­lems, or to advance the state of research and edu­ca­tion net­work­ing in order to make it some­thing which we could best sell to the gov­ern­ment as a fix­ture for sup­port­ing research, edu­ca­tion, and similarly-related parts of our soci­ety which real­ly need­ed networks. 

So, in this peri­od start­ing 2002, RNP moved in a num­ber of areas for the next few years, devel­op­ing the net­work more, pro­duc­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with­in the com­mu­ni­ty of the uni­ver­si­ties to devel­op net­work ser­vices for use by our users. And also to start intro­duc­ing inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions with oth­er net­works of a sim­i­lar kind. And these were obvi­ous­ly the United States but also in oth­er coun­tries of Latin America and in Europe. So num­ber of long-term col­lab­o­ra­tions began with these oth­er con­ti­nents, and this helped to bring us clos­er to where we ought to be in terms of pro­vid­ing ade­quate ser­vices for our users. 

RNP was launched in September 1989, exact­ly thir­ty years ago this month. So we’re now at the stage of look­ing back and see­ing how we are at present. Brazil’s a very large coun­try, as you prob­a­bly know. We have now clients…campus, in 1,500 points in insti­tu­tions around the coun­try. And we can cal­cu­late about 4 mil­lion, which is about 2% of the pop­u­la­tion, is served by these con­nec­tions either as peo­ple who work in the uni­ver­si­ties or they’re stu­dents and so on. 

The lat­est news we have about attack­ing the dig­i­tal divide is we have a series of new ini­tia­tives in course. Many of these are to do with net­work devel­op­ment. And one of the peo­ple most involved in han­dling this is our present direc­tor of net­works, who’s Eduardo Grizendi. And these include…now, this is sev­er­al years lat­er after the first net­work, upgrad­ing our back­bone to 100 gig, and possibly…it’s scal­able because it’s mul­ti­ples of a 100 gig; it depends on the demand of traf­fic you have. 

There’s inter­na­tion­al con­nec­tions which are also at the same lev­el: 100 gig, scal­able. RedCLARA—I did­n’t men­tion RedCLARA but RedCLARA was set up around 2003 to bring togeth­er the sim­i­lar net­works in Latin America from Mexico down to the south of South America. There about four­teen nation­al net­works involved in RedCLARA and our project of build­ing and oper­at­ing this net­work has been the object of much assis­tance from the European Union through suc­ces­sive projects. So we we are now increas­ing the capac­i­ty of the RedCLARA net­work also to 100 gig scal­able. And there are new inter­na­tion­al routes. They’re linked to the US, there’s a new route to Africa, a new cable. Transatlant—trans-South atlantic cable for change, is enabling us to get direct­ly from Brazil and thus the rest of Latin America to Africa. And for the first time in many many years, a new sub­ma­rine cable is under con­struc­tion at the moment between Brazil and Portugal, which will pro­vide very high-capacity scal­able access to Europe. 

So all of these things are going on at the moment. RNP is now thir­ty years from from point its zero. What it will be like in anoth­er thir­ty years’ time it’s very dif­fi­cult for me to pre­dict; I prob­a­bly won’t be around to see it. But time will tell, and I think the signs are good. 

I’d like to close by thank­ing some of the peo­ple who have been involved in this pro­pos­al to be a mem­ber here. The pro­po­nent was Peter Knight, who is a United States cit­i­zen who lives and works in Brazil. He’s an econ­o­mist and is a stand up pad­dler at 76; he’s in very good con­di­tion. Then there are my spon­sors, the peo­ple who pro­vid­ed sup­port let­ters. There are five of them alto­geth­er. One is Professor Harvey Newman from CalTech. Because of our great col­lab­o­ra­tion in assist­ing the physics researchers who are scat­tered around Brazil. Also Nelson Simões the direc­tor gen­er­al, and Flavio Wagner who’s cur­rent­ly the head of the Internet Society in Brazil. And two of my for­mer stu­dents, Iara Machado who’s now a direc­tor of RNP in my place, and Antonio Abele[sp?] from the uni­ver­si­ty in Pará. 

I’ll close by thank­ing very much the Internet Society for rec­og­niz­ing and approv­ing and giv­ing me this oppor­tu­ni­ty. I’m very pleased and very proud and rather hum­bled to get to this stage, and I’d like to thank them very much.

And final­ly, my fam­i­ly. I have my daugh­ter here with me. She’s sat at the table here at the front. My wife Virgilia and we have two sons also, Antony and Leonardo. They fol­low and sup­port me very much in all that I do in this respect. And I’d like to thank all of them. Thank you.

Further Reference

Internet Hall of Fame profile