Communications Monopoly

Adm. Elizabeth A. Hight Here’s what happens when you have a communications monopoly:
The Defense Department isn’t trying to “muzzle” troops by banning YouTube and MySpace on their networks, a top military information technology officer tells DANGER ROOM. Rear Admiral Elizabeth Hight, Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, says that the decision to block access to social networking, video-sharing, and other “recreational” sites is purely at attempt to “preserve military bandwidth for operational missions.”

Computer_center_400x Not that the 11 blocked sites are clogging networks all that much today, she adds. But YouTube, MySpace, and the like “could present a potential problem,” at some point in the future. So the military wanted to “get ahead of the problem before it became a problem.”

Military Defends MySpace Ban (Updated Yet Again), Noah Schachtman, DangerRoom, 18 May 2007

How much bandwidth is it using? We don’t know; the Admiral won’t say.

Now if the U.S. military’s real reason is to keep the troops from posting information that could get some of them killed, I could understand that. But if so, why are they trotting out this lame excuse? And for that matter, why is the U.S. commander in Iraq saying military blogs are providing good accurate descriptions of the situation on the ground?

Besides, the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Ed Markey, points out:

“I still have not heard a sound defense of this decision by the Pentagon,” Rep. Markey says in a statement. “I’m also not convinced that a lack of available bandwidth is what is really driving this decision, since countless other sites, such as gaming sites that take up considerable bandwidth, have not been blocked.”

And how long before we hear the same lame excuse of proactive prevention of bandwidth overload from the cableco/telco duopoly back in the states? Oh wait, haven’t we already heard it about VoIP, BitTorrent, etc.?

Fortunately, Markey’s subcommittee is the one that has to address such issues, so at least he’s wise to the prospect.

I guess it’s also fortunate that, judging by the responses the military gave to questions about workarounds that soldiers already use, the military apparently doesn’t understand the technology enough to actually enforce the blocks they put in place. And that some of the same workarounds will work back in the U.S. But domestic ISPs have more technical knowledge about how to block within their networks, not just at the edges, so I don’t think we can really depend on circumvention.

Not to mention, why should we have to? Most of the major uses that have brought people to the Internet (the web, blogs, social sites, file transfer, etc.) grew up in an open Internet that lets anybody talk to anybody any way they want to. That’s the Internet people are paying for, and that’s the Internet ISPs and everybody else will profit the most from.


PS: Found via BoingBoing.