To their credit, the AP and its technology reporter -- Peter Svensson -- discovered an ominous violation of network neutrality last week by the cable/telephone company duopoly:
This is the Internet without Network Neutrality
Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally... The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.
If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content...
In other words, the greatest democratic publishing platform in history -- represented by the Internet's guiding principle of network neutrality -- is being violated by the duopoly of cable and telephone companies.
Save the Internet explains the telco/cable duopoly's tactics:
What Comcast is doing is inspecting the packets of information users send over BitTorrent and similar peer-to-peer protocols. When Comcast’s technology identifies a file being uploaded over BitTorrent, it intercepts and terminates the transmission by falsifying the TCP to look like one of the end users.
As Professor Susan Crawford explains: “It’s as if someone else that sounded like you got on the phone as you were talking to your mother and said, ‘We need to hang up right now.’ ”
Comcast’s behavior, which AP calls “the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider,” is what a world without Net Neutrality looks like...
Tom Evslin explains the technical ramifiations of Comcast's traffic shaping:
The [masqueraded message sent by Comcast] is an RST packet, part of the TCP protocol. The correct use of RST is documented here by the IETF and does NOT include its use by any intermediary. Electronic Frontier Foundation confirmed the AP results and also provided additional technical information.
...what Comcast is doing is... wrong if not illegal... I also don’t want anyone or anything masquerading as my computer. Period. If traffic has to be blocked, there are ways to do it without pretending to be me.
...Comcast’s reported response was slimy. AP quotes Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas as saying: “Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent.” AP then continues: “Douglas would not specify what the company means by “access...”
Contrast the approach taken by Comcast with that taken by Cloud Alliance, a small Vermont wireless ISP which also has to manage its network to assure that some customers don’t hog all the resources. During periods of congestion Cloud Alliance restricts the bandwidth available to all customers. It does NOT try to decide which applications users should run and which they should not. It does NOT spoof being the user’s machine. And it DOES tell the truth about its policy.
Once again, the few remaining network gatekeepers -- the cable and telephone companies led by high-priced lobbyists and their lapdog lawmakers -- are violating the principles of network neutrality that led to the Internet's amazing success.
The FTC and the FCC should immediately hammer Comcast and any other violator of network neutrality with massive fines and injunctions. In addition, it should block all incumbent telco and cable companies from bidding on the 700MHz spectrum. Think about it: should these monopolistic beltway lobbyists win that wireless auction, they are sure to keep the networks closed and proprietary.
Go to Save the Internet now and take action. Contact your representative and tell them that immediate regulation of the cable/telephone duopoly is needed. If we don't stop them. they're certain to the Internet into cable television. At risk is America's technological leadership position and, by extension, its very national security.
Go to Save the Internet now and take action. You can read more about this important issue at the The Net Neutrality Index. It is not a Democratic vs. Republican issue. It's not a liberal vs. conservative issue. It's a freedom issue. Take action now against the would-be monopolists who would control all freedom of expression on the Internet.