Friday, October 19, 2007

COMCAST is the end of the Interregnum


#2: a period during which the normal functions of government or control are suspended
There is important news today that it has been proven that COMCAST disrupts on purpose Bittorrent and P2P connections. The way it does it is to impersonate P2P hosts and send close connection messages.

We are getting to the point in which the Internet Service Providers assume the right to profile the kind of network traffic they allow to their subscribers, and this is the end of the internet. From then on, it will be intercompany.

Let us recapitulate: The internet became the phenomenon it is today because it just moved bits from one end of the net to another without restrictions, which unleashed a gigantic creative wave on how to make the moving of bits useful. Now there are so many applications that make it so useful to move bits, that governments and companies feel that there is no need for neither more creativity nor more usefulness, but more control and more profits.

In the times pre-internet, everything the citizen could use to be informed was mediated by governments and publishing/media companies. The advent of the internet gave a real chance for the communication of subjects and ideas that were not considered important by governments or companies, or even worse, communication of subjects and ideas that governments and companies actively wanted to prevent.

Actually, Publishing and Media companies can not exist in opposition to governments[1], and the politicians that get to become the governments can't get there without media endorsement, so both Publishing/Media companies and the government are the same for the purposes of this article.

Since the internet, because it is a space of freedom, is full of ideas that governments/media don't want to circulate, the freedom of the internet is their enemy.

Up until now, the internet was resilient, because in the words of John Gilmore, the internet interpreted censorship as damage and routed around it. But what if the censorship entity is so big that it can actually impede the re-routing?

I think that when COMCAST decides to disrupt bittorrent, it does it as a result of a calculation: Is COMCAST big enough to impede the internet to route around it when it tries to control what their subscribers may or may not do with their connections? and their calculation is that COMCAST is big enough. Perhaps not COMCAST alone, but together with other internet carriers and government laws that won't defend the freedom but instead to enshrine the principle that the owners of communication channels may filter the communication that takes place through their channels any way they please. That would be ok if at the same time there was legal protection for the creation of independent internet carriers, but there is not. Remember that AT&T was the archetypical example of monopoly. It was broken up in pieces, and guess what? the pieces reassembled themselves into pretty much the same monopoly... So, what freedoms are the governments to protect: Those of the channel owners to do as they please with their channels, or those of the citizens to have communication freedom?

Since there was a period of internet flourishing when governments couldn't control what people communicated, there was an interregnum of creativity, that sadly, is on its last legs.

It may be interesting if a big player such as Google decides to leverage the existing resilience of the network by, let's say, becoming the last freedom internet carrier itself. That may happen, and since the principle that dictates that in the internet damage is routed around is still very strong, it could lead to huge profits. But do not misunderstand the possibility of Google taking on the defense of freedoms as evidence of their resilience, in the end, it will make more economic sense for Google to capitalize by exploiting the network rather than to allow it to keep growing. The only possibility to save freedoms is to defend them directly the same way other freedoms have been defended, that requires understanding of their value. Remember the words of Judge Dalzell writing the three-judge panel decision on the subject of the CDA in 1996 [next to last page]:
The Internet may fairly be regarded as a never-ending worldwide conversation. [...] As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion.
[1]: Take the example of television: The radio frequencies for Television are property of the nations, that is, the governments. It frequently happens that governments use their ownership of radio frequencies to blackmail companies into editorial lines of their liking. The process doesn't have to be as clumsy as in third world countries, it can be very subtle as it happens in the industrialized nations. There are degrees, though, it may actually happen that some publishing media can really work independently of government, fortunately.


Anonymous said...

Fanatics of the P2P super power gave birth to the devil.
It is the strongest P2P file sharing system Share NT.
And, Because UDP is used, even the band limiting that the internet service provider does is exceeded.

Share (P2P) - Wikipedia
Share NT -

Eddie said...

At least the last comment is not spam. Whoever left that comment should come back and at least choose a name and explain himself. I may delete the comment.