David Isenberg

David Isenberg

Principal Prosultant(sm), isen.com, LLC
Joined on April 25, 2007
Total Post Views: 307,294


In 1997, David S. Isenberg wrote an essay entitled, The Rise of the Stupid Network: Why the Intelligent Network was a Good Idea Once but isn’t Anymore. In it, Isenberg (then a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Laboratories) examined the technological bases of the existing telecom business model, laid out how the communications business would be changed by new technologies, foresaw today’s cataclysms, and imagined tomorrow’s new network.

Tom Evslin, a senior AT&T executive at that time, told The Wall Street Journal that The Rise of the Stupid Network, “was like a glass of cold water in the face” of AT&T’s leaders. The Wall Street Journal called the essay “scathing… startling”, and said, “it may soon assume cult status among the tech mavens that roam the World Wide Web.” Communications Week International said that the essay “challenged the most sacred assumptions of the telecom world.” The Gilder Technology Report said it was “a stirring call”. Inevitably, the essay found wider acceptance outside of AT&T than within it. So in 1998, Isenberg left AT&T to found isen.com, inc. to help telecommunications companies understand the business implications of the newly emerging communications infrastructure.

David S. Isenberg’s public delivery of the Stupid Network message is passionate and personal. He has spoken to over 100 audiences on three continents. For example, he has spoken numerous times at George Gilder’s Telecosm, at Jeff Pulver’s Voice on the Net, at Kevin Werbach’s SuperNova, at John McQuillan’s Next Generation Networks, at the Canadian Advanced Network Research (CANARIE) annual meeting, at Merrill Lynch and Chase Bank telecom investor meetings, at the International Institute of Communications, at the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference (APRICOT), at the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA) annual conference, at the Fiber to the Home Council’s first annual meeting, and at numerous private management, customer, investor and technology events.

Isenberg has been cited and quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Fortune, Wired, Business 2.0, Communications Week International, Network World, Release 1.0, Gilder Technology Report, TheStreet.com, Nikkei Communications, and numerous other publications. His story appears in at least half a dozen business books, including Telecosm by George Gilder, The New Pioneers by Tom Petzinger, and The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig.

Isenberg has written articles for Fortune, USA Today, IEEE Spectrum, MSNBC, Communications Week International, Light Reading, Business 2.0, America’s Network, VON Magazine and ACM Networker. Isenberg advises a number of new telecommunications companies and their investors. He serves as a member of TechBrains (the Merrill Lynch technology strategy advisory board). He sits on advisory boards of CallWave, LaunchCyte, Broadband Physics, Terabeam and YottaYotta.

Isenberg is a Fellow of Glocom, the Institute for Global Communications of the International University of Japan. He is a Founding Advisor of the World Technology Network. He was a judge of the World Communications Awards in 1999 and 2001.

In his 12-year career at AT&T (1985-1998), Isenberg was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff with AT&T Labs Research, the part of Bell Labs that stayed with AT&T after the 1996 “trivestiture.” Before that, he held AT&T Bell Labs technical positions in Consumer Long Distance, in Network Services, and in the PBX business unit. Before AT&T, Isenberg was employed by Mattel and Verbex, and did consulting work in voice processing for Milton Bradley, National Semiconductor, GTE Labs, and others. Isenberg holds a Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology (1977) but also learned much science growing up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. His upbringing centered around two principles: (1) Research is useful, and (2) If you are going to fish, use a big hook.

Except where otherwise noted, all postings by David Isenberg on CircleID are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Featured Blogs

Wrong on the “Exaflood,” Wrong on Network Neutrality

In 2007, Johna Till Johnson, president of Nemertes Research, published a paper that hyped a so-called "Exaflood" - a kooky Discovery Institute idea about how the Internet would drown in its own data. The Nemertes press release on the paper was widely reported in newspapers. It described itself as a "... landmark study ... groundbreaking analysis ... evidence the exaflood is coming... It said: "The findings indicate that by 2010 ... users could increasingly encounter Internet "brownouts" or interruptions to the applications they've become accustomed to using on the internet." more

Making Network Neutrality Sustainable, Revisited

Today FCC Chairman Genichowski announced that the FCC's Network Neutrality Proceeding is entering the rule-making stage. This is a historic milestone, worth celebrating, but the milestone is on a road with hairpin turns. If you look directly above us, you can see we're in almost exactly the same place we used to be when the pro-competition provisions of the 1996 Telecom Act were intact and the distinction between telecommunications service and information service was meaningful, but now we are a lot lower. more

Verizon Throws 18 States Under the Progress Train

I am a happy Verizon FIOS fiber-to-the-home customer in Connecticut, I admire the long view Verizon took to build its FIOS infrastructure, and I appreciate the substantial punishment that Verizon took from Wall Street until it became obvious that FIOS would be a huge success. But Verizon is not building FIOS in all of its territories! Verizon is unloading land lines in eighteen states because they don't want to keep building FIOS there... more

More Questions About WSJ Claims of Iran DPI

The Wall Street Journal's dubious story about Iran's use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) for spying, censorship and disinformation appears in a highly charged atmosphere. The US Republican right wing wants the US to talk tougher to Iran, to bomb-bomb-bomb, invade, or commit "regime change." More questions than mine have surfaced about the WSJ's story... more

It’s Official: Value Moving to Edge

It's official. A team of market analysts from Oppenheimer are saying [PDF] what I've been saying since 1997, that the apps are separating from the network, and this is driving a wave of "explosive innovation." more

Crawford Likes Aussie Utility Network

Susan Crawford, special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy and a member of the National Economic Council, is reported to be favorably inclined towards a U.S. network much like Australia's recently announced $33B broadband plan. Of course, the U.S. is some 15 times bigger than Australia, and that'd make the price tag closer to $500B by straight multiplication. But the U.S. would get a fiber network done right... more

TWC Does the Right Thing - Again!

In response to customer feedback, Time Warner Cable has discontinued its trials of tiered Internet service. [Corporate Announcement here.] It was quite a stuff-storm, but to TWC's credit, they put their finger up, felt the howling gale, and changed course right away. This is in marked contrast to their larger competitor, Comcast... more

Dumb When They Want To Be…

David Akin pointed me to this article in the Ottawa Citizen which describes CRTC initiatives aimed at getting the cablecos to pay into a fund that would support, "the creation of high-quality, high-cost, scripted Canadian broadcasting content in the new media." In it, Ken Engelhart, senior vice-president of regulatory [affairs?] for Rogers Corp. is quoted saying... more

Fixing the Internet Might Break It Worse Than It’s Broken Now

Willis Alan Ramsey, who wrote "Muskrat Love," recorded one and only one studio album. The cognoscenti of country think it's a gem, an all time top ten. There's an apocryphal story that when Ramsey was pushed to make another record he allegedly retorted, "What's wrong with the first one?" We who use the Internet every day risk losing sight of what a miracle it is, and the openness that keeps it so miraculous... We also lose sight of the fact that even as the Internet's miracles occur, it's almost always broken or malfunctioning or threatening or worse in many places along the line. more

Benkler Analyzes Broadband in Stimulus Bills

Yochai Benkler has done a close reading of the broadband portions of both House and Senate stimulus bills. Nice work. To summarize Yochai's summary: House: $6 Billion, split between Commerce and Agriculture Depts., requires adherence to FCC's Four Internet Principles (the Martin FCC Version); Senate: $9 Billion, via Commerce Department's NTIA, requires less specific "interconnection and nondiscrimination." How much broadband can a Billion buy? more

The Meanings of Network Neutrality

Ed Felten has posted a nice taxonomy of the several meanings people take when they use the term Network Neutrality, briefly: End-to-End Design; Nonexclusionary Business Practice; Content Nondiscrimination ... I've been developing a taxonomy of issues that interact with and are bound with Network Neutrality. So far there are six items... more

What If I Were Wrong About Edge-Caching?

Nicholas Thompson at Wired Blog sums up yesterday's Wall Street Journal piece on Google. To summarize his summary: Google's edge caching isn't new or evil; Lessig didn't shift gears on NN; Microsoft and Yahoo have been off the NN bandwagon since 2006; The Obama team still supports NN; Amazon's Kindle support is consistent with its NN support. Yet... yet... more

Bogus WSJ Story on Net Neutrality

Today's Wall Street Journal has a bogus, misleading story claiming that Google has been making deals with telephone and cable carriers that violate Network Neutrality. My BS detector was triggered by paragraph five, which reads: "One major cable operator in talks with Google says it has been reluctant so far to strike a deal because of concern it might violate Federal Communications Commission guidelines on network neutrality. 'If we did this, Washington would be on fire,' says one executive at the cable company who is familiar with the talks..." more

Fiber Optics: Thinking It Through

Doc Searls has an essay about bringing fiber optics to every home in America. It is aimed in the right direction, but makes a couple of mistakes on the numbers and falls to ground way short of its target. It troubles me that I appear to be the sole source for Doc's numbers (on the basis of some informal conversation and my Telecom Day speech in Wellington NZ last May). This post is an attempt to correct the record, and to create one where my previous thinking has been private. more

Beyond White Spaces

Back in 1999 I wrote a column that envisioned the uses of digital wireless in the home. I compared two nascent, much-touted wireless protocols, Bluetooth and HomeRF. I completely, totally, slippery-dash missed Wi-Fi. There had been a public 802.11 spec since 1997. The first 802.11b devices, which made Wi-Fi popular, burst onto the scene in early 2000, just a few short months after my clueless insights. Today HomeRF is forgotten, Bluetooth is for ugly ear jewelry and Wi-Fi rulz... more

McCain’s Tech Policy

I was hoping that McCain's Tech Policy would emphasize and extend the two McCain pro-Internet initiatives -- the McCain Lautenberg Community Broadband Act and Spectrum Re-regulation, neither of which have yet seen the light of day -- but it doesn't. In the first case, it makes a vague nod in the direction of "market failure and other obstacles." In the second, it treats spectrum policy as a done deal; now that we can surf the Web in coffee shops, we're done. more

F2C: My Opening Remarks

Here are my opening remarks at F2C: Freedom to Connect yesterday: "I am honored to be among so many remarkable people. We have to be remarkable people, because we have a hell of a job to do. The Internet has been given to us. It is a miraculous gift, and a boon to our lives... at least in part because it accidentally matured outside the purview of profit and loss. Now the money has arrived. If you want to see what happens when the money arrives, look at Nigeria or Venezuela or Russia or Iraq..." more

The Network Management Excuse

Telco front-man Scott Cleland, in a recent blog post, thumbs his nose at the Four Internet Freedoms and says that the FCC should too. Under current leadership, it probably will. Referring to the recent submissions to the FCC by Free Press and Public Knowledge and Vuze complaining about Comcast's use of reset packets to block applications that compete with Comcast's own proprietary video entertainment offering, Cleland says "Network management trumps net neutrality." There are lots of reasons for, ahem, managing. Cleland neglects to observe that controlling congestion the way Comcast does it is like scattering nails in the road for traffic control. more

Financial Times on Telecoms Separation

I've written that a Network Neutrality law needs a Network Management Exception, and I've laid out how this exception is likely to become a giant vacuum-cleaner-fish loophole. The way out is the separation of infrastructure from service, so infrastructure operators can have no financial interests in the services they carry, hence no motive to discriminate in anti-competitive ways. Now today's Financial Times has an editorial on the EC telecom regulator, Viviane Reding's proposal to beef up national telecom regulatory authority within European countries and create a Europe-wide so-called super-regulator. more

Why a Net Neutrality Law is Not Enough

Once we decide that Network Neutrality is a good thing to (re)enshrine in law, then we need to ask how to do that effectively. One way would be to pass a law saying, "Thou shalt not discriminate." That's the current approach. But network operators will say that they must manage their network, and if, in the course of network management, they were to disadvantage some source, destination, application, service or content, they might be accused of violating the law. So any Network Neutrality law must have a Network Management Exception... more

FCC Gets 27,063 Comments on Network Neutrality

To date, the FCC has posted 27,063 comments it has received from the Citizens of the United States about its Network Neutrality NOI, aka Broadband Industry Practices WC Docket No. 07-52 [.doc, .pdf]. The first hundred are here, with links to the rest. more

Treating Different Types of Communications Differently

A friend who read my Creating Sustainable Network Neutrality paper wrote to say, "Help me understand what is so bad about treating different types of communications differently." That's a really good question! If you want to offer vertically integrated services on special purpose networks, such as video entertainment or pager service or telephony, I do not have a problem with that, provided you don't use your market power to impede Internet applications that offer competing services... more

Clues about the Future of TV

A recent article chronicles the telcos' slow start in cable TV. I don't think the telcos stand a chance of succeeding in cable TV. Instead, if they're to succeed at all, they'll probably buy or form alliances with existing cablecos... But they'd better start swimming, because the times are a changing.. more

How to Increase Broadband Competition

Susan Crawford, seeking to learn from Korea and Japan, identifies three routes towards broadband competition... Facilities based competition: Still waiting for that mythical third wire, or perhaps some unused, unlicensed TV spectrum, but not holding my breath. (Broadband over powerline? It is such an encumbered technology that it is its own barrier to entry.) Wholesale access: Been there, tried that, but the Bells wouldn't unbundled elements... more

Is Comcast Impairing Vonage?

On the one hand, the big telcos are chanting the mantram, "We shall not block, impair or degrade any content, service or application." On the other hand, they're saying, "There's no problem. We don't need a law until there's a problem." Well, now. Mitch Shapiro over at IP & Democracy, points to Russell Shaw's post that says: "I have been noticing a growing number of posts in which many Vonage users and Vonage Forum Members have been complaining about the quality of Vonage calls over Comcast broadband connections..." more

Topic Interests

BroadbandWirelessAccess ProvidersTelecomVoIPP2PIPTVNet NeutralityNetworksRegional RegistriesPolicy & RegulationWhite SpaceCybersecurityCensorshipWebCyberattackMobile InternetInternet Governance

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Popular Posts

More Questions About WSJ Claims of Iran DPI

What If I Were Wrong About Edge-Caching?

Verizon Throws 18 States Under the Progress Train

Bogus WSJ Story on Net Neutrality

Fixing the Internet Might Break It Worse Than It’s Broken Now