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Save the Internet--and tell me why it's in danger


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April 20, 2006

Save the Internet--and tell me why it's in danger

Stephen Baker

OK, maybe I've been in a math-bubble for two months. But when I read Jeff Pulver's plea for a movement to save the Internet (thanks Joho), I'm not sure what the dangers are. Is there some immediate threat brewing in some sub-committee or boardroom? I think if we want to save the Internet, we need at least some general direction. Some want to save it from porn, others from over-regulation. What's the most pressing danger?

10:59 AM

society, spam and other abuses

It's called 'net neutrality'--the compact whereby every network router promises to pass along every packet that comes along, without fear or favor. One instance of where this gentleman's compact on maintenance of the commons is eroding: The FCC grants Verizon an exemption from regulations requiring DSL carriers to share facilities with ISPs, and from certain limits on its business-broadband operations.

Critics say this will drive up the price of business DSL for small businesses, while large enterprises are able to turn to new networks such as Metro Ethernet.

Net activists see this as part of a protectionist trend toward a politicized Internet, protecting incumbent US telcos from competition under the rationale of treating telecom infrastructure as a national security issue.

A tangentially related point: expanded powers for the CFIUS, the cabinet-level government committee on foreign investment. When China's Lenovo closed a deal to sell 15,000 computers to the State Dept., calls went out for the CFIUS to intervene. And indeed, the deal has been delayed.

So, the argument goes, the government is intervening very heavy-handedly to prevent outgoing technology transfer, but may wind up cutting us off from incoming technology transfer as a result.

Another case in point: The Global Online Internet Freedom Act of 2006, which would limit transfer of surveillance technology abroad while requring the likes of Google and Cisco to make data from operation of technology so classified available to the Dept. of Justice.

Net libertarians are principled access-maximizers, and feel that upshot of this trend will be a tollbooth- and speed bump-littered national superhighway, cut off from the outside world by a network DMZ patrolled by packet-sniffing government data miners.

In a nutshell, that's the worry. The business case against this trend is that it is inherently anti-free trade, unfairly impeding the U.S. operations of multinational firms.

Does that help?

Posted by: Colin Brayton at April 21, 2006 11:31 PM

David explains exactly why it's an issue, Steve: http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/mtarchive/why_net_neutrality_matters.html

Posted by: Stowe Boyd at April 23, 2006 05:27 AM

Here's 101 ways to save it Steve, by Paul Boutin.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.01/internet.html

I guess you could add more to the list. It's the Internet so you could have a list of 1,000,000,000 things and somebody could add another. Just parts of the Internet don't work and it won't pay to fix them.

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at April 23, 2006 08:39 AM

The "Save the Internet Coalition" is simply the "Save the Whales Coaltion" with a new name. The Internet as we know it is not so well-designed that it can't stand some improvement, and in fact if it's to move forward and become a robust and reliable means for carrying phone calls and video streams on a massive scale, some fundamental design points are going to need changing. Note that this coaltion includes no networking gurus, but rather a fuzzy-minded group of lawyers and professional cause-mongerers.

It's basically a silly Luddite exercise that's simply a boil on the side of technical progress.

Posted by: Richard Bennett at April 24, 2006 06:34 AM


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