Tag Archives: ISP

Internet Censorship and the Free Society

If I were given a dead kitten for every mind blowing piece of information I saw on the internet, I would be quite rich by now, selling those dead kittens covertly online to a bunch of shady dead kitten enthusiasts and then investing that money on a webpage dedicated to dead kitten paraphernalia, photos and Google AdWords. (Of course, one has to assume that I do not fly into a blind rage and kill the nearest human responsible for the kitten’s death and go to jail thereafter. But this is also the internet, and anything is possible)

Yes, anything is possible on the internet. This one invention has fundamentally changed all civilization touched by it in a matter of years, akin to the steam engine and electricity. It has become a tool with which any layperson can become aware of a niche subject if said person puts their mind to the task, and learns concepts, ideas and practical use of the subject from the comfort of their homes. It is a medium of communication that far outperforms any other kind of relay that human civilization has used in its history. However, the biggest draw to the internet is that it is not subject to any kind of restriction wherever it has been put to use, and users can freely roam it in search of atypical and curious information.

An astute reader would, at this point of time, either chuckle at my seemed ignorance about internet restrictions, or write a harshly worded comment forming an ad hominem argument relating the size of my genitalia to the propensity to naiveté regarding the aforementioned internet restrictions. I believe the last sentence of the previous paragraph may be worded as the biggest draw to the internet is that it is not seemingly subject to any kind of restriction wherever it has been put to use, and users can freely roam it in search of atypical and curious information.There definitely are restrictions on the internet, and while the ways to circumvent these bans and blockages do exist, oftentimes the methods prove to be quite cumbersome for those who are not very internet-savvy; they do not even bother with knowing these methods because they either do not know of the existence of the banned places, or they do not bother about the aforementioned banning because they were not going to go there in the first place, right?

Wrong.

Censorship is the granddaddy of book burning. Book burning itself is a symbol and method of proscription, and its political ramifications of essentially erasing’ a religion or a reign’s past so that the current dominator can write their version of history. In George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty Four, the protagonist works in a department of the totalitarian regime built on this very concept of erasing and rewriting history. Ironically, Nineteen Eighty Four was itself banned or challenged for its views as being intellectually dangerous for society.

Censorship

So if a three hundred and twenty-six page book written in the year Nineteen Forty Nine has challenged the views of great number of people, many of whom were in positions of authority to actually effect an injunction on the book, I wonder how many such quantities of text, photographs and videos have appeared over the years on the internet that have been censored due to their content being deemed unpalatable for the general public’ by a core group of people in positions of authority?

Does this not easily look like an abuse of power vested in those people? Internet users in the United Kingdom have recently been plagued by the same question with four of the country’s big Internet Service Providers (ISPs) bowing to the pressure imposed indirectly by the Mothers’ Union to shield children from sexualized imageryand have decided to make sexually explicit sites an opt-in’ for those who wish to see it. Elsewhere, the admins of Reddit have banned a community under the website called Jailbait where people could find non-nude photographs of girls who are allegedly underage.

Both these bans come under the broad principle of a small bunch of people deciding what is right or wrong for the consumption of an extremely large populace.

The mothers of Mothers’ Union UK has obviously never heard of parental internet control software such as Net Nanny which makes me question their knowledge of the internet as a whole. These people do not understand the anything goes on the internetconcept and have firm rules about what and what should not be viewed by society. Of course, they are the same people who arbitrarily decide on what societyshould be or not be. These are the same people who wish to make upstanding members of the society’ with their ideals akin to a factory production line. And (this is admittedly a long shot) these are the kind of parents who make trash like Toddlers and Tiaras possible. If only they would wake up and browse the internet for a while with an open mind, but no they have to think of the children!

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On the other side of the spectrum is Reddit that has always been a champion of free speech and free see, and free hear and free download. The ban of /r/jailbait has struck a controversial chord in the community and has polarized discussion on what constitutes free speech and what should never ever be done because the reputation of the site is at stake. This argument regarding the reputation of the site stems from the fact that Reddit was seen under an awful light by Anderson Cooper of CNN when he did a one-sided coverage of the site that indirectly claimed that Reddit consisted of a huge population of perverted pedophiles who spent their entire day watching lithe, semi-nude bodies of society’s underage daughters. If you had been to erstwhile /r/jailbait, astute reader, you would also claim that if these were society’s daughters, then society has gone to the dogs. Indeed, when an unsavory community is made specifically to test Reddit’s determination to uphold its protection of free speech (I am talking about a community that links to pictures of dead children) but Reddit fails the test with another community page because of some TV news anchor’s one-sided report, it does boggle one’s mind.

Nevertheless, there is a case for Reddit’s administration, for the subscribers of /r/jailbait might have been engaged in a trade of child pornography which is morally and legally base. However, how does the case stack for Mothers’ Union UK, as they are essentially muting a bustling industry (which is quite harmless to the consumer as opposed to the tobacco or the alcohol industry) because they do not understand (or want to understand) the internet and how to educate their child about it.

The question that arises here is one of perceived freedom. How does a civilization such as ours claim to be free when, given an opportunity, it crushes any sort of deviation from the apparent norm? Why is homosexuality such a grievous sin and how do two men or women falling in love with each other in any way harm children? This entire perception of society colors the word very word deviantin a terribly bleak and distrustful hue that burns pictures of perversion against said deviant in our brains.

Have we, the urban civilians, really become free from the bonds of prejudice or have we really invented another form of prejudice under the vague umbrella of being morally right’?

Color me disappointed.

Major US ISPs Agree to a Six Strikes Plan for Copyright Violators

CopyrightMajor internet service providers in the US, including AT&T, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, have agreed to limit the services of repeat copyright offenders. Unsurprisingly, the agreement was welcomed by both RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). Cary Sherman, the RIAA’s president, hailed the pact as groundbreakingclaimed that it ushers in a new day and a fresh approach to addressing the digital theft of copyrighted works.

The pact comes after RIAA and MPAA’s scaremongering tactics failed to have a significant effect on piracy. The new “Copyright Alert System” takes a more nuanced approach and focuses strongly on educating the subscribers. The process highlighted by the mitigation measures document is as follows:

First Infringement: An ISP, in response to a notice from a copyright holder, will send an alert to a subscriber notifying the subscriber that his/her account may have been misused for online content theft, that content theft is illegal and a violation of the published policies of the ISP, and that consequences could result from any such conduct.

Second Infringement: If the alleged content theft persists despite the receipt of the first alert, the subscriber may get a second similar alert that will underscore the educational messages, or the ISP may in its discretion proceed to the next alert.

Third Infringement: If the alleged content theft persists after educational alerts are sent, then an additional alert will be sent which will include a conspicuous mechanism (such as a click-through pop-up notice, landing page, or other mechanism) asking the subscriber to acknowledge receipt of the alert.

Fourth Infringement: If, after this alert asking for acknowledgment, the subscriber’s account again appears to have been used in connection with online content theft, the subscriber will be sent yet another alert that again will require the subscriber to acknowledge receipt.

Fifth Infringement: If, after these educational and acknowledgment alerts, the subscriber’s account still appears to be engaged in content theft, the ISP will send yet another alert. At this time, the ISP may take one of several steps, referred to as Mitigation Measuresreasonably calculated to stop future content theft. These Mitigation Measures may include, for example: temporary reductions of Internet speeds, redirection to a landing page until the subscriber contacts the ISP to discuss the matter or reviews and responds to some educational information about copyright, or other measures (as specified in published policies) that the ISP may deem necessary to help resolve the matter. ISPs are not required to impose any Mitigation Measure which would disable or be reasonably likely to disable the subscriber’s voice telephone service (including the ability to call 911), e-mail account, or any security or health service (such as home security or medical monitoring). The ISP may also waive the Mitigation Measure. Any and all steps an ISP may take will be specified by their published policies.

Sixth Infringement: If, after this latest alert, the subscriber’s account still appears to be engaged in content theft, the ISP will send yet another alert and will implement a Mitigation Measure as described above. We anticipate that very few subscribers, after repeated alerts, will persist (or allow others to persist) in the content theft.

Before any of the mitigation measures are imposed, the subscriber can request an independent review, which has a waivable $35 filing fee. The subscriber can also take up the matter in a court of law.

Crucially, this pact “does not, in any circumstance, require the ISP to terminate a subscriber account”. Neither does it create any formal legal procedures or new laws. Consequently, it also doesn’t protect subscribers from being directly sued by the right holders.

Do You Want Big Brother Spying on You?

Back in 2006, the   U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, under the Bush Administration, called for new rules that would require ISPs and cell phone companies to collect more data (spy) on all of their users. It’s called Mandatory Data Retention. At the time, there was enough opposition to this idea that it never got far.

Recently, the  House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing to promote this controversial idea once more. Several members of congress have already proposed legislation on data retention, and support for it is coming from both Democrats and Republicans. The Obama administration’s Department of Justice is also expected to support forced data retention.

Currently, ISPs and phone services already keep transaction records for 90 days, in accordance with the 1996 Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act. After 90 days, the records are deleted, and some law enforcement agencies would like to see these records kept much longer.

Big-Brother-is-Watching-YouSince it’s obvious to many that this is another case of Big Brother is watching, how can these politicians justify their call for more intrusion into business’s and customer’s internet and phone traffic?

Most of this call to action is the result of law enforcement and defense agencies wanting longer retention periods, and politicians that want to look like they are tough on internet crime, such as child pornography. However, privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), see it as having bad unintended consequences for user privacy, First Amendment anonymous speech, and ballooning costs for retaining the information.

In my opinion, new laws requiring data retention are going to cause more problems than they solve.

Law enforcement agencies can already ask internet and telecom providers to collect extensive information on suspects. Collecting more data will help law enforcement and Homeland Security catch criminals and terrorists, but these new laws will treat all of us like suspects.

The collected information will seriously clamp down on anonymous speech and whistle blowing. Do you trust the government to stop itself from trying to track down sources of leaked information or people who voice strong anti-government or opposition party speech?

Government and law enforcement won’t be the only ones able to access this data. How many websites are hacked every day? How many government agencies have data stolen from them? We’ve already seen what’s happened with WikiLeaks and government employees who get fooled into giving out information.

It will also make simple visits to legal sites more ominous. Would you want everyone to know you’d visited a site about STDs, mental health, bankruptcy, adult entertainment, or any other normally private topic.

Civil courts will be able to get access to this information. It could be used in divorce cases, to prove infidelity. It could be used in law suits to prove prior knowledge or associations.

The internet and telecom providers can handle the additional open-ended costs of mandatory data retention, since those costs will be transferred to the consumers. It will be the same as a new hidden tax. Smaller businesses, and start-ups may not be able to bear the added costs, thus reducing innovation, and killing competition with the big internet companies.

In summary, new data retention laws would be good for big government, law enforcement and big business. They would be bad for the average joe consumer, free speech and free association. If you don’t agree (or you hate freedom), you have the freedom to comment below.

FCC Regulators Impose Net Neutrality – What is it?

[United States]

fcc-sealOn Tuesday this week, a panel of 5 regulators in the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted to impose Net Neutrality rules on internet service providers. As you may know, the FCC is a U.S. agency that regulates communications of many types, such as telephone, cellular phone, radio, cable tv, wireless internet and others. The members of the commission are political appointees, and are not elected by a vote of any kind. The commission also enjoys a great deal of independence from Congressional authority.

The main idea around Net Neutrality is that internet service providers should provide open and unrestricted access to all of their customers. In the past, providers such as Comcast have slowed down access to certain types of information such as Bittorrent streams. Net Neutrality is also proposed to stop the service providers from charging extra money based on band-width use. Others are saying that Net Neutrality isn’t enough, and all internet access should be free to the public.

While the ideas behind Net Neutrality sound beneficial to the average consumer, many people have raised concerns that any government involvement is going to clamp down on the inherent freedom of the internet. As we’ve seen already, governments are the worst abusers of internet freedom. Countries such as Iran, North Korea and China are famous for imposing severe restrictions on data entering their countries. The U.S. government has already shown a heavy hand when they shut down over 80 websites for copyright infringement, and tried to shut down the WikiLeaks web site.

Internet freedom and privacy organizations are typically afraid to support any regulation of the internet, even inside the U.S. borders. For example, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has serious questions:

What is the basis for the FCC’s authority, and is there a reasonable limiting principle to it? Is the basis on which the FCC is claiming it can regulate, one that has real limits for future decisions … ?

Personally, I have to oppose the idea of Net Neutrality. Allowing the FCC or any government body to regulate access to the internet is risky. Once they get in, it’s nearly impossible to keep them out. Technology changes, companies come and go, but government commissions and regulations seem to last forever.

The internet is not broken, and it doesn’t need fixed.

We’ve seen the internet service providers respond to criticism. They will typically do what their customers want them to do. We vote with our money. If we don’t like a provider, in most cases, we can switch to another. I fear the real possibilities of biased political involvement and corruption.

Unfortunately, we may not have any further choice on this issue. The FCC, which isn’t responsible to any American voter, may succeed in it’s bid to regulate the internet inside the United States.

Here is a video from Reason.TV that explains my feelings on this issue a little better than my words.

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If you don’t agree with my position on Net Neutrality … feel free to comment below.


Tikona Launches Wireless Broadband In 10 In India

Tikona Digital Networks launched its wireless broadband service in 10 cities in India, including Delhi. The internet service provider (ISP)  plans to expand its network to 50 cities by the end of 2010. The speed offered is quite decent too — up to 2Mbps. Apart from that, users need not buy an extra device for the service, the company will offer it as a part of the package, which might work in advantage for the users. ISPs like Relaince, Tata Indicom and others force users to buy the device worth 3-4k INR to use their wireless service.

Mr Prakash Bajpai, Founder, MD & CEO, Tikona Digital Networks explains, The current broadband internet scenario is similar to what the mobile scenario was 10 years ago. India has just a little under 10 Mn Broadband while China has more than 120 Mn Broadband. China could reach this level as they had a large wireline plant of over 400 Mn lines. India has only 40 Mn and only a fraction of this is usable for Broadband. Wireless broadband is the only option for India to increase its Broadband base to levels that are similar to China’s. We envision a powerful broadband enabled India and believe that it is an imperative for an emerging IT and software superpower.^