Hey Barack! Want to set up an Internet that everyone hates? Mr Trujillo has some ideas for you...
The chances are pretty good that incoming US president Barack Obama is not looking for advice on how to run the Internet from an executive who couldn't get a near-monopoly company organised to bid on building a national network for a much smaller country.
However, Telstra boss Sol Trujillo has never been backwards in coming forward, so it's no surprise that he's popped up in the pages of US magazine Business Week offering his take on what the new American government should be doing to encourage usage of the Internet. It's also no surprise that his viewpoint is that a lot of money should be spent and that telcos should be allowed to do more or less whatever they like with it. It's an argument he's been presenting for years.
There's several ways of interpreting this move. With Trujillo under heavy pressure to explain Telstra's botched NBN bid to shareholders, he may be looking to increase his US profile ahead of getting the next job. If he wants to stick around, he may want to demonstrate to the local marketplace that he has a global perspective. He certainly spends a lot of time in the piece gloating about the speed and coverage of Telstra's Next G network, while somehow failing to mention how expensive it is or that the vast majority of people still use low-speed copper connections which were essentially built when Telstra was not a private company. But all that's to be expected.
When considering the vexed issue of net neutrality — which most US readers are going to care about more than what's happening down here in Luhrmanville — Trujillo has come up with a position that's controversial and improbable. "Getting the right policy mix also would require shattering the myth of net neutrality," Trujillo (or, realistically, a well-briefed comms droid) wrote. "It may seem like a high-minded ideal to argue that everyone should have unfettered access to telecom networks at a discounted rate. But one low price for unlimited use destroys telecommunications companies' incentive to invest the tens of billions of dollars needed to create and maintain networks." (This is pretty much the exact approach Telstra has taken with its Next G network — charging a fortune is seen as the only fair outcome after spending a mozza of its lown money.)
Trujillo would also like to see the US adopt the capped bandwidth model which we're universally saddled with down under. "People who consume massive amounts of bandwidth, by distributing movies online, for example, would pay more than small users. Net neutrality works directly against the goal of unleashing private capital and know-how to build a nationwide, high- speed mobile Internet. Regulatory clarity must be in place before the private sector will risk capital."
Perhaps fortunately for the people of the US, the incoming administration does seem a little less keen on sucking up to the private sector than its predecessor. Asking for a lot of funds for the telco sector while also arguing they should be able to charge more probably isn't going to fly well in the blogosphere, and seems an unlikely policy to advocate. But then, so did not submitting a proper bid for the biggest and most lucrative project that's ever going to emerge in Telstra's home market.