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Egypt demonstrates why the Internet is unreliable

On Thursday, January 27th at 22:34 UTC (about 4:30 PM, NY time) Egypt cut off outside access to the internet.  According to Renesys:

At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers.

Go and read the entire article.  Notice how the government asked and the ISP corporations complied.  This is in response to massive riots and uprisings in Cairo and other cities which may topple the government.   Think that the internet and new media alone can keep our government honest and doing the people’s work?  Think again.  Net Neutrality is a pipe dream and would do nothing to stop this type of censorship regardless.

Free press is one of the critical legs of our democracy.  The traditional broadcasting and media has been decimated in the last 15 years.  They are not without fault, cutting staff, politically slanted reporting, profit taking have done there part.  Fortunately, while staffs have disappeared, the infrastructure (networks, transmitters, printing presses) remain in place.  They need to be revitalized and utilized.  There is a trend that I and others have noticed where small operators, perhaps one or two stations at most, are providing excellent service to their respective communities and running circles around other, group owned stations in the same market.

Net Non-Neutrality

200px-NetNeutrality_logo.svgInternet Neutrality has become a big topic among some groups.  The fear is that some ISPs will filter internet users content, arbitrarily excluding whatever items they want without explanation or disclosure.   The temptation is too great for some ISPs (Verizon, Comcast, ATT, et. al.) not to block certain IP addresses, say for example, that of a competitor.

This amounts to corporate censorship.  If I have a Verizon account and I want to research other telephone companies, will I get accurate results?  What about some potential regulation change that the company didn’t want to have congress pass?  How about adverse rulings about Verizon from the state public service commission?

In light of the NBC/Universal – Comcast deal announced last week, those concerns appear to carry even more weight.  If the internet is going to replace radio, TV, and newspapers as some suggest, access must be unfettered.  Any member of the public should be able to search through any ISPs infrastructure and find all relevant data.

There have been FCC hearings on the matter, there is a NPRM,  a web site has been set up, there is a wikipedia entry.  Recently, senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have come out against the idea of Net Neutrality, although I cannot imagine why.

I decided to do a little experiment myself.  At my official job, we have to ISPs, each on a separate T-1 line.  The first ISP is a local company, Best Web.  The other ISP is Verizon.  On the Best Web circuit, I did a Google search for some innocuous term, with safe search turned off.  I then used the same search terms on the Verizon circuit.  I was surprised to see different results for each search.  I did specific searches for items based on a geographical location, e.g. “widgets, Washington DC.”  In each case, the Verizon search results were missing some of the pages that the Best Web search results had.  This is going through Google.  I have Verizon at home also, and noted the same differences there.

By this relatively brief research, it would seem that Verizon is filtering out some pages they don’t like.  It is difficult to say why, and if I didn’t go through the trouble of changing ISPs and repeating the search, I would have never known about it.  Clearly most people don’t understand:

This is already happening!

This is one of the key problems with the “internet” future.  Access to data can be very easily controlled by programming fire walls and gateways at the IPS’s data center.  Users searching for items will never know what they are missing.  Having a diverse broadcasting industry has fostered freedom of the press and advanced our democracy.  Loosing that will put us on a slipper road to Corporatocracy, if we are not already there.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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