Monthly Archives: January 2008

Policing Cyberspace: any e-mail, file transfer, or Web search

022807-mcconnell-200.jpg A few days ago I remarked that potential loss of liability protection probably wouldn’t stop the telcos from filtering all Internet traffic because they’d get immunity, possibly in the FISA legislation currently being debated in the Senate. A few days later, the New Yorker revealed that the White House indeed has a plan for that:
“The real question is what to do about industry,” McConnell told me. “Ninety-five per cent of this is a private-sector problem.” He claimed that cyber-theft accounted for as much as a hundred billion dollars in annual losses to the American economy. “The real problem is the perpetrator who doesn’t care about stealing—he just wants to destroy.” The plan will propose restrictions that are certain to be unpopular. In order for cyberspace to be policed, Internet activity will have to be closely monitored. Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer, or Web search. “Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation,” he said. Giorgio warned me, “We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.’ ”

The Spymaster, by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 21 January 2008

Bruce Schneier has already demolished the “privacy vs. security” canard: it’s really liberty vs. control.

It figures that it would be Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell pushing monitoring the whole Internet, since he’s one of the key figures behind retroactive telecom immunity for illegal warrantless wiretapping. That was a bad idea, and this is also a bad idea.

But it’s also why AT&T may have good reason to believe there’d be no liability for filtering the entire Internet.


Retroactive Immunity and Administrative Discipline: It’s Not About Telcos

nixonillegal.320.240.jpg Retroactive immunity for whom?
Telecoms already have immunity under existing FISA law where they acted pursuant to written government certification or where they prove they acted in good faith (see 18 USC 2520 (d)). There is no reason that the federal courts presiding over these cases can’t simply make that determiniation, as they do in countless other cases involving classified information.

Jay Rockefeller’s unintentionally revealing comments, Glenn Greenwald, Unclaimed Territory,, Thursday January 24, 2008 07:33 EST

There’s even a two year statue of limitations in the Code.

Here’s one version of what this is really about: Continue reading

Joel Johnson on Filtering on AT&T Online Show

The editor of BoingBoing Gadgets goes on an AT&T-sponsored online-only video show and asks about AT&T’s announcement that it will filter all Internet traffic. Getting no straight answers from the host, he asks the audience:
“Do you guys want AT&ampT to read your emails?”


Do you want AT&T to like open up your instant message conversation to see if you said something they didn’t like or maybe the government didn’t like?”


Talking About AT&T’s Internet Filtering on AT&T’s The Hugh Thompson Show BoingBoing Gadgets, Posted by Joel Johnson, January 21, 2008 5:23 AM

Johnson noticed that the crew of the show was not happy: Continue reading

Canadian Net Neutrality

cd.gif In Canada, an ISP has even gotten up to blocking striking employees’ website:
During the Telus strike in 2005, the corporation blocked access to a website run by striking Telus employees called “Voices for Change” (and at least 766 other websites). Those familiar with network-control issues in Canada also accuse Rogers and Bell of limiting peer-to-peer (P2P) applications, which people use to share audio, video and other digital data with one another. So, here we have ISPs blocking or at least limiting the use of what is likely the most innovative, creative and participatory use of the Internet. In response to customer concerns, Bell recently admitted that they “are now using Internet Traffic Management to restrict accounts that are using a large portion of bandwidth during peak hours. Some of the applications that are included are the following: BitTorrent, Gnutella, LimeWire, Kazaa….”

The Fight for the Open Internet, Steve Anderson, Canadian Dimension magazine, January/February 2008 issue

The rest sounds very familiar: Continue reading

Settling for Slow: Duopoly or Competition

CIR638.gif This is what the duopoly doesn’t want:
In France, for example, the regulator forced France Télécom to rent out its lines. One small start-up firm benefited from this opportunity and then installed technology that was much faster than any of its rivals’. It won so many customers that other operators had to follow suit. In Canada, too, the regulator mandated line-sharing, and provinces subsidised trunk lines from which smaller operators could lease capacity to provide service.

Open up those highways, The Economist print edition, Jan 17th 2008

The duopoly will settle for the U.S. being slow and expensive as long as they get to collect the rents.

Here’s how other countries do it: Continue reading

AT&T Filtering: Has Tim Wu Not Been Paying Attention?

Katharine Graham
by Diana Walker
Tim Wu asks in Slate: Has AT&T Lost Its Mind? It seems he’s discovered that:
Chances are that as you read this article, it is passing over part of AT&T’s network. That matters, because last week AT&T announced that it is seriously considering plans to examine all the traffic it carries for potential violations of U.S. intellectual property laws. The prospect of AT&T, already accused of spying on our telephone calls, now scanning every e-mail and download for outlawed content is way too totalitarian for my tastes. But the bizarre twist is that the proposal is such a bad idea that it would be not just a disservice to the public but probably a disaster for AT&T itself. If I were a shareholder, I’d want to know one thing: Has AT&T, after 122 years in business, simply lost its mind?

No one knows exactly what AT&T is proposing to build. But if the company means what it says, we’re looking at the beginnings of a private police state. That may sound like hyperbole, but what else do you call a system designed to monitor millions of people’s Internet consumption? That’s not just Orwellian; that’s Orwell.

Has AT&T Lost Its Mind?A baffling proposal to filter the Internet. By Tim Wu, Slate, Posted Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008, at 10:15 AM ET

Come now; what did you think they were up to? Continue reading

Time Warner Volume Charging

leaky_pipe.jpg Transparency via memo leak?
Metered Internet access is a fact of life for many broadband users around the world, but has been largely a nonfactor when it comes to wired broadband in the US. That may change, according to a memo leaked to the Broadband Reports forums. If the memo is to be believed, Time Warner Cable will be rolling out what it calls "Consumption Based Billing" on a trial basis in the Beaumont, Texas area.

Under the proposed scheme, new customers will be able to choose from a couple of different plans with varying bandwidth caps. They'll be given online tools to monitor usage and will be able to upgrade to the next higher tier of service to avoid charges for exceeding their monthly bandwidth limit. If the trial works well, Time Warner would then roll out bandwidth caps to current customers: "We will use the results of the trial to evaluate results for possible future nationwide rollouts," reads the memo.

Bandwidth caps have been a sore subject for some users who have found themselves bumping into mysterious, undefined limits. This past fall, a number of Comcast subscribers complained that their service was cut off after having reached Comcast's bandwidth limit.

Leaked memo: Time Warner Cable to trial hard bandwidth caps, By Eric Bangeman, ars technica, January 16, 2008 – 04:12PM CT

If the memo is legitimate, it’s good that Time Warner is going for more transparency. Although if they want transparency, why don’t they just come out and announce what they’re doing? Continue reading

Principles: the FCC’s Don’t Mean Squat –Cleland

fccprinciples.png Duopoly apologist Scott Cleland spells out what everybody should have already known:
The petitions assume that the FCC’s policy of network neutrality principles have the legal and binding effect of formal FCC rules or law and that they trump all existing law and rules. This is preposterous.

The Common Sense Case Why Network Management Trumps Net Neutrality, Scott Cleland, Precursor Blog, 15 Jan 2008

Indeed, it is preposterous to think that the FCC ever meant to enforce its net neutrality “Policy Statement” of August 2005. Even if it did, the very way the four “principles” in that statement are worded, every one in terms of consumers, excludes the very existence of participatory services such as BitTorrent.

Cleland’s blog goes to great lengths to spell out what he considers common sense (which means he knows he doesn’t actually have a legal argument). Don’t be surprised if his items get parrotted by other anti-Internet-freedom blogs. And don’t be surprised if the FCC rules in favor of Comcast, even though any competent network engineer can tell you that there are ways to do network management that don’t involve faking reset packets, a technique that would be considered malicious denial of service if it came from any entity other than an ISP, not to mention Comcast’s BitTorrent stifling seems closer to the fraudulent promise of unlimited service that got Verizon fined by New York State.

[Clarified:] It’s not about network management. It’s about a few corporations and their political allies trying to stifle net neutrality and Internet freedom against the best interests of everyone else, including their own customers.


Forensic FCC Oversight

JDD_Headshot_2004.jpg Preventive Congressional oversight had no effect on the FCC. We’ll see if forensic oversight does any better:
Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation of the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, three weeks after the agency’s controversial vote to ease media ownership restrictions.

In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the committee asked that all electronic records and personal e-mails related to FCC work be saved.

The committee has “initiated a formal investigation into FCC regulatory procedures to determine if they are being conducted in a fair, open, efficient, and transparent manner,” said the letter written by Chairman John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, and ranking Republican Joe Barton of Texas.

“This investigation will also address a growing number of allegations received by the committee relating to management practices that may adversely affect the agency’s operation,” the letter said.

House panel launches probe of FCC practices, Reuters, Tue Jan 8, 2008 4:15pm EST

Maybe Congress will slap the FCC with another stern letter. I’m sure Kevin Martin is quaking in his boots.