Fred Baker, Cisco Fellow


Fred Baker, Cisco

HTF Editor Richard Bennett spoke with Cisco Fellow Fred Baker about his thoughts on networking technology, security, and the intersection between law enforcement requests and what is actually doable within the context of the Internet infrastructure.

Baker has been with Cisco for 20 years, and is an expert in traffic management, security, and IPv6 issues . He’s worked on a vast array of tech policy issues, and frequently works with law enforcement to help them learn what’s doable and not doable within the Internet infrastructure.

Some takeaways from the conversation:

  • The rise of peer-to-peer software caused major engineering headaches for ISPs.When bit-torrenting software came on the scene, it used up a lot of resources as users were trying to maximize their uploading and downloading capabilities. Comcast’s use of aggressive network management techniques led to claims that Comcast was unfairly disadvantaging its competitors — getting regulators interested, and furthering the discussion about the need for net neutrality. “The real problem there was there was just so much traffic,” Baker says. “There was a lot of bandwidth, but so much traffic that something had to give.”
  • IPv6 use has been increasing dramatically. After the IPv6 specification was finished in 1998, there were trials, but IPv6 hasn’t been needed — until now. According to public measurements by Google, in the U.S. 17 percent of the traffic they get uses IPv6 – and coming from Verizon Wireless, it’s about two-thirds of the traffic. A lot of people think IPv6 isn’t yet in wide use, but “conventional wisdom isn’t very well educated,” Baker says. It’s been changing “very dramatically over the last couple of years.” IPv6 was developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force to deal with the long-anticipated problem of IPv4 address exhaustion.
  • We need proper checks and balances on law enforcement. CALEA, the “Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act,” requires that telecom carriers and manufacturers have built-in surveillance capabilities and the ability to grant access to law enforcement. It first applied to telephones, but has since been extended to cover broadband Internet and VoIP traffic. “Criminals are not as dumb as we tend to believe they are,” Baker says. “A lot of your spam comes from evil geniuses in random countries.” For law enforcement to do its job, it needs to be able to intercept communications, Baker says. “My problem with the NSA’s activities is not that they’re off catching the bad guys. I want them to catch the bad guys. It’s that they don’t have the checks and balances and the protections that one expects to find in a free society.”

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