Briden

whatever i feel like writing, and whatever you feel like reading

Net Neutrality - The Internet is in Danger

March 28th, 2008 by Briden

Net Neutrality. Perhaps you have heard of it? Here’s the story in a nutshell, big companies (like microsoft, comcast, cisco, ibm, and even telus) want to change the way the internet works. Right now, the internet is “free” as in you make a request, and that request travels to the server you want to talk to, and then the server answers you. essentially there is nothing between you and them, except a bunch of wires.

*important update march 28th 2008*
The announcement of talks between “Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, and BitTorrent, a file-sharing company,” over “ways to distribute large files over the cable company’s broadband network” fairly “doesn’t change the urgent need for the FCC to take action.”

In fact, these talks are the direct result of public pressure—and the threat of FCC action—against Comcast. But with Comcast’s history of broken promises and record of deception, we can’t just take their word that the Internet is now in safe hands…. This agreement does nothing to protect the many other peer-to-peer companies from blocking…. Innovators should not have to negotiate side deals with phone and cable companies to operate without discrimination.

… original post follows …

However, big companies like comcast that sell “unlimited bandwidth” are annoyed at all the people who use their internet connections a lot, as this swamps their “tubes” and they can’t sell as much. Basically, they have one big fat tube, and they sell “unlimited” access to this tube, carving off a little piece for each of their customers. However, they have run out of tube. Due to the rise in popularity of such high bandwidth applications as youtube, google earth, internet radio, internet TV etc., those tubes are getting SWAMPED.

Also of concern to the likes of comcast is P2P traffic, ie: bittorrent, soulseek, WinMX, etc. Basically, a lot of people use P2P software, and download SO much that it strains they’re systems ablity to provide service to the rest of us. A valid point they have i guess, as a lot of this traffic IS illegal, unnecessary, and takes bandwidth away from the rest of us.

However what comcast did, is the shitty part. They begun “throttling” internet connections. Basically, your connection will cease to operate like you want it to. downloads will fail, connections will be dropped as if there is no server there, speeds will slow to a crawl, etc. The way they do this is something called “traffic shaping”. they look at the actual content of what you are sending/recieving. if it’s bit torrent traffic, they have the ability to throttle it (note, throttling an internet connection does not, make your connection go faster, as they would love you to believe, it’s more like when you “throttle” a persons neck, ie choke the life out of it)

so, where’s the problem? aren’t they just making the internet better for the rest of us, by keeping those pirates from stealing such a fat chunk of the pipes we all share? no. and i’ll tell you why:

  • they say they are not blocking, but they are. BitTorrent will not work on comcast for most people in the US (note, comcast is the ONLY choice for many people in the US, so this is a huge issue
  • there are MANY valid and legitimate uses for P2P software, for example, downloading open source software, distributing files that you are allowed to distribute, downloading creative commons works, etc.
  • These customers purchased “unlimited” internet. we should be able to use the internet as we want to, that’s what we pay for isn’t it?
  • Most importantly, we MUST look at this as the tip of the iceberg. If we let them filter bittorrent, next it will be filtering youtube, then what, msn, maybe indymedia? once the laws, precedents, and technologies fall into place for this, the internet as a whole will be severly damaged, and free speech the world over will take a beating. Only customers that pay to have their traffic delivered will actually get it delivered (think reuters, AP, google, CNN, and MSN). those that have conflicting viewpoints to the mainstream, like for example gnn.tv.. well, their contact might just be held back a bit. or turned off all together at will, by the communications companies because their ideas are not popular.

do you think i am paranoid? OK, i am, but it’s for good reason, i feel threatened! this is how it already works in such fascist regimes as china. Sites can be blocked or turned off at will at the countries highest network infrastructure level. This has been used to great effect for example by china who block searches for things like tiananmen square. they have internet police to take down any content they deem offensive to their country. the people take it because they have no choice. We do have choice, as we still, sorta, live in a free country. this is not a case of only money, this is a case about power, and control, and we CANNOT let them win. the internet is our one free haven, where i am free to put up this blog, and you are free to read it. They seek to make the internet one big advertising and propaganda delivery machine. they want to make it so that certain projects (ie, open source, indy media, free speech information) simply are no longer viable on the internet. don’t let them do this.

Comcast recently had to attend an FCC hearing on the matter. Tons of supporters of “free” internet (i mean, internet unrestricted, not free of cost), showed up to attend the hearing, but they were unable to, it was full. guess why? comcast paid people off the street to fill the meeting room with shills! a very disturbing practice, here is some more information:

quoted from slasdot:


Comcast paid people off the street to take up room at yesterday’s FCC hearing in Massachusetts. Comcast acknowledges that it paid people to hold places in line for its employees. But Save The Internet claims that people were bussed in by Comcast and then took up almost all available seats in the meeting room 90 minutes before the meeting opened, blocking scores of interested people from attending. Such tactics are not unheard of in Washington DC, but how appropriate are they in a regional meeting on a college campus?

what! i had never heard of this practice, but apparently, it’s pretty common. here’s an account from someone about their experience as a seat filler:

I was a bike messenger in DC for several years, and did a number of line standings. Messengers are often hired for this purpose, being familiar with the Hill offices, and being still more familiar with working as dispensable help for some of the worst people in the world.
I never liked doing line standings, though they usually paid well (relative to my average income back then); besides being deadly boring, there was always a sort of bitter ethical aftertaste, it’s true. I think the last one I did was for one of the asbestos hearings; I’ll never forget seeing the looks on the faces of what appeared to be genuine concerned citizens, showing up at what they thought was an early hour only to find themselves effectively locked out of the room by a ragged bunch of guys in rain jackets and shoes that close with velcro - who were only proxies for three-piece suits and wing tips, but whatever.
The deal (for whoever’s interested in these things) is you show up at one of the Senate or House office buildings at some crazy hour, usually well before dawn or even a day or two ahead of time, and wait. The building isn’t open yet, so you have to wait outside, and then march in to the hallway near the assigned hearing room, trying to preserve the order of the line as it was. Sometimes the hearing room is a ways from the open entrance; guys want to move up in line or at least not lose too many places, everybody starts walking faster and the line will break into a sprint. Kind of fun to run across the floor of the Hart building at 5am, bike cleats ringing on marble, but as things are generally a lot more locked down on the Hill these days I doubt if this happens much anymore.
So one problem, for the waiter, is that while this is basically an accepted practice the Capitol Hill police don’t really fully condone it, either. I’m guessing that there’s no clear regulations, let alone laws, covering these things, but once you’re inside the cops will threaten to kick you out if you try to sit down, or leave a bag or other placeholder in line while you use the bathroom. If they catch you holding someone else’s place in line (besides the one person who’s paying you to be there, natch) they’ll wait for the other guy to come back and throw you both out. Their right to do any of these things is pretty vaguely defined, but good luck trying to lodge a complaint.
Of course for important hearings where people are waiting for many hours beforehand, some bending of these rules has to happen, and so it does, but you have to defer to the cops by not doing it in front of their faces. They in turn give a little leeway; right up until an hour or so before the hearing, they only walk down the line once in 20-30 minutes, then as the time approaches they come by more and more often. By the time the lawyers and lobbyists show up it’s a reasonably orderly scene. You’re not really supposed to just have a sign out, airport-limo style, because somehow that is considered too blatant. So there’s this funny school-dance thing that happens where a bunch of suits are walking up and down the line, looking for their guy or guys, both sides murmuring the names of various client firms. Once you find each other you switch out, and the cop who was diligently making sure you didn’t hold your buddy’s place for five minutes while he went to take a piss will stand there and watch and not say a damn thing.I have a very low opinion of the Capitol Hill police, for reasons only tangentially related to the above, so excuse me if that colors my description; I’m just describing the phenomenon from the underling’s perspective for anyone who cares to know about it.
Bullshit I say!Audio of the meeting you couldn’t go to, ;) To find out how you can help, visit:http://www.savetheinternet.com/

SavetheInternet.com

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