Internet Society Gets New Leader

Donald Heath plans to work on standards and services -- with as little government help as possible

P> In early April, Donald M. Heath became the first, full-time president and chief executive officer of the Internet Society, Reston, Va.

Since 1992, the society, based in the U.S. government's backyard, has worked to coordinate the development of the Internet -- from setting standards to linking key players.

Anthony Rutkowski, who previously headed the society, now works on Internet strategy for General Magic, Sunnyvale, Calif. Lawrence Landweber, a professor in the computer sciences department of the University of Wisconsin who had served as president of the society in the interim, is now chairman of the Internet Society board.

Heath has a long history with the Internet, starting before anyone called it that. As a young salesman for the predecessor company to NCR, Heath tried to sell network backbone equipment to the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency was building the ARPAnet, which later turned into the Internet.

Maybe Heath wasn't convincing enough, or maybe Pentagon officials just didn't like what they saw. "I remember leaving there with my tail between my legs," said Heath.

Other more influential jobs followed, including a run from 1989 to 1993 at MCI Communications Corp., Washington, D.C., where Heath served as vice president of Data Marketing.

Now Heath has another chance to make his mark on the Internet. Washington Technology spoke to him shortly after he started his new job.

WT: How will the Internet Society change under your leadership?

HEATH: We'll be much more in touch with the commercial side of the Internet. It is shaped more by business use now than anything else. We've got to change our focus to help it grow.

WT: What are your top priorities?

HEATH: Standards will always be our No. 1 concern. If you don't have a solid base, you can expect collapse.

WT: Who are your members?

HEATH: We have 6,000 individuals and 150 organizations. Half are from the United States. [Memberships represent 125 countries.] Members are from research institutions, academia and business. Our membership is fairly small now, but we expect it to grow tenfold in the next couple of years.

WT: What's your relationship to the Internet Engineering Task Force?

HEATH: The IETF fits under the umbrella of the Internet Society. We financially support the group. That's a new arrangement -- it's just now that it's happening.

WT: What is the Internet Society's budget?

HEATH: We have a $3 million annual budget. It will increase significantly by 1998 -- we'll at least double that.

WT: What are the greatest challenges now in developing the Internet?

HEATH: If any network is successful, you'll have more use. You have to think about the choke point. No one sees any slowing down [of Internet use]. We need to work with MCI, AT&T, Sprint, the regional Bell operating companies and others to figure out solutions.

WT: What is government's role in Internet development?

HEATH: The less the better. Any regulation would dampen the growth of the Internet.

WT: How do you see the Internet changing in the coming year?

HEATH: I can't wait to see what things will be like. We know we can have more sophisticated multimedia. The passing of information will expand, voice, video, data. I see an incredible evolution of every aspect of the Internet.

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