neutral and legal

Chairman Julius Genachowski pledges administration support for network neutrality:

This principle will not prevent broadband providers from reasonably managing their networks. During periods of network congestion, for example, it may be appropriate for providers to ensure that very heavy users do not crowd out everyone else. And this principle will not constrain efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and spam-free Internet experience, or to enforce the law. It is vital that illegal conduct be curtailed on the Internet. As I said in my Senate confirmation hearing, open Internet principles apply only to lawful content, services and applications — not to activities like unlawful distribution of copyrighted works, which has serious economic consequences. The enforcement of copyright and other laws and the obligations of network openness can and must co-exist.

Question: if you were an engineer tasked with curtailing unauthorized distribution at the network layer where neutrality applies, how would you do it? What would your algorithm be?

7 thoughts on “neutral and legal

  1. Good question, can’t help thinking it’s kinda rhetorical. I’m rusty on the network layer, but would imagine it would be possible to come up with a usable algorithm to tell whether a packet contained text (HTML etc) or binary data (images, audio, vids). But given that copyright is a good few layers above, there’d be no way of spotting that – any kind of marker/pattern-matching system would have way too much overhead. The only alternative I can think of would be using knowledge of specific hosts – which seems to run counter to the neutrality angle.

  2. Yea except that won’t happen in a vacuum – first: a bunch of white collar middle management types will be tasked with creating a tiered system using whatever loopholes are left by the rulings

  3. Abundance and Scarcity are awesome ;)

    What should be the goal:
    – Identify users
    – Keep historic usage of identified users
    – Identified users can audit their historic usage at any time
    – Non-identified users get the available bandwidth AFTER ALL of the identified users
    – Businesses are treated as organizational units
    – If there needs to be a hierarchy of organizational units, it can evolve
    – If demographic groups of individuals need stimulus or assistance, it can evolve
    – Corruption of the system will occur, how wide-spread it will be is the real concern

    At the local access provider level: bullies shouldn’t be allowed to hog unless everyone else is engaged in a collective meat-space event and isn’t on-line.

    At the Equinix.com exchange level: bullies are great customers and changes are made all the time to accommodate their needs.

    The thing that I keep coming back to: Internet usage is a one-to-many relationship. Fundamentally, if I provide content, I have to find a way to get my content to users in a timely fashion, otherwise they go somewhere else. The properties of abundance dictate behavior, unless some political property (repression, censorship, civil liberties, etc) appears to be interfering with the properties of abundance.

    Having big Internet pipes has always been an economic problem. (Well, maybe it wasn’t back in the days of DARPA funded research/educational focused Internet…)

    I get that the carriers don’t like being in “a race to the bottom”, and no one wants their bread-n-butter business to become completely commoditized and irrelevant. Carriers-as-distributors, maybe learning from record companies, broadcast tv, and newspapers, that the distribution layer is susceptible to disruption.

    As access (the network parts) and content (any producer) clusters and feedback on each other, a perceived scarcity starts occurring?

    It all seems so diametrically opposed to what it appears to be trying to accomplish. Protecting the commons is fundamentally broken, unless you want to live in Singapore.

    The place where control does the most good and is the most successful is at the end points of the network. The place where the most harm can be done, and where the most economies of scale can be accomplished is trying to do the control in the center of each network…

    This will be hard to do. There will many missed steps. There will be much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth.

    Will “free market” bandwidth limiting algorithms emerge as business products? Crazier things could happen.

    I’m sure someone else has said all of this much better than I just attempted… Point it out and I’ll be happy to acknowledge it.

  4. can’t help thinking it’s kinda rhetorical.

    Danny, the closest I saw to an idea about how this would be implemented is that somebody (prominent) asked me why the ability to recognize file types wouldn’t suffice. The implication was blocking all BitTorrent or maybe all MP3.

    In your ultra quick guesses on how it would be implemented you hit the nail on the head. You have to mix layers and pull the application deep inside the network to ensure legality, and that sacrifices neutrality.

    My guess is that a skilled practioner couldn’t come to any other conclusion, but that’s only a guess, given that I haven’t studied this for real.

    The internet engineers have to do this for real in order to get the point across. It can’t be a 50 word comment in this thread, it has to be a white paper or many white papers.

  5. I get that the carriers don’t like being in “a race to the bottom”, and no one wants their bread-n-butter business to become completely commoditized and irrelevant. Carriers-as-distributors, maybe learning from record companies, broadcast tv, and newspapers, that the distribution layer is susceptible to disruption.

    What’s in it for the carriers is *the* question, because the whole thing is about their interest.

    I agree that they don’t want to be in a commodity business, and that they see influence over distribution as a business opportunity. One thing they might do is charge both ends of the pipe, which would be pure upside. Another thing they might do is set ruinous rates or speeds for competitors to their own content. That would allow them to do tv-over-internet in a way that resurrected the cable tv business almost unchanged.

    But then again, the whole thing is crazy. They’re in the internet business. If they don’t like it, get out. They knew the rules when they got in and chose to make the investment. Why go kamikaze against the internet? My guess is that business executives in the content groups at companies like Comcast really don’t understand what the internet is. They’re spreadsheet people with experience in the TV industry, not engineers from the computer business.

  6. Question: if you were an astrophysicist or aerospace engineer tasked with getting a man to the moon and back again, but only by strict adherence to the purely geocentric principles that exist within the aethereal layer where papal bull applies, how would you do it? What would your algorithm be?

    It’s an engineering shibboleth, that divides the engineers with doctrine from those without.

  7. In case it isn’t obvious, ‘engineer with doctrine’ = charlatan.

    That said, there’s still plenty of highly paid work out there for charlatans into parting fools from their money, e.g. DRM developers, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.