Categorynet neutrality

Pros and cons of net neutrality clearly laid out

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Opposing Views, a debating platform where experts go head-to-head on all kinds of issues, has put up a discussion page about net neutrality:

Net neutrality is the principle that says all information flowing across the Internet should be treated equally. But with more people streaming data-rich video and playing online games, the Internet faces congestion concerns. Should carriers be able to sell multi-tiered access to heavy users? Should sites that generate massive traffic — like Google and Yahoo! — pay extra fees? The U.S. Government is examining Net Neutrality and its financial, legal and social implications. Do we need federal intervention to ensure fairness, or is this an issue for the market to work out?

Since net neutrality is of those topics that are very rich, complex and to some degree opaque, this is a great way to get an overview.

(via TechCrunch)

The Internet without Net Neutrality

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When Net Neutrality Goes Away

Net Neutrality – the principle that all websites are created equal, and are treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – has been the basis for the free development of the web since, well, pretty much the creation of the web. But many ISPs have been attacking net neutrality: For if they charge extra for accessing more popular sites, they see a chance of earning more money. It’s that simple. ISPs would charge users more for accessing popular sites, and they would charge the website operators more if they wanted to be given premium access. Private or independent websites would be served more slowly, if at all.

But what would the web look like without Net Neutrality? This picture pretty much sums it up: We’d be back in an era of cable TV-like pricing, you’d have to choose a plan which would allow you to access certain kinds of content, maybe the stuff would even be pre-selected by Viacom or other telcos and ISPs. Say bye bye to discovering cool new web stuff.

Doesn’t sound too tempting? You can get more info, and you can support Net Neutrality, here:

(via isen.blog)

Mesh networks & “over the top” services to fly under the Net Neutrality radar

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Like Skype & basically all file-sharing networks, Joost streams its content via peer-to-peer technology. Shelly Palmer has some good notes about the disruptive powers “over the top” services, peer-to-peer, and particularly wireless mesh networks, could (and hopefully will) have on mainstream media. Especially for the TV guys, interesting times should be coming up…

3) By the end of 2007, bandwidth costs for video delivery over the top will be at or near zero. Companies like The Venice Project, urBuddies, BitTorrent, Veoh, MediaZone, RawFlow and about a dozen more will have robust peer-assisted, streaming mesh networks deployed during that time. This software flies under the Net Neutrality radar and makes serving lots of “over the top” video cost effective. 4) RSS (Really Simple Syndication), the language of blogs and podcasts is also the language of video blogs, playlists and meta-playlists. When combined with “over the top” video, you have a new model for affiliating websites into connected communities — this may well be the future of mass-customized video distribution. 5) “Over the top” applications are going to be the focus of a zillion lawsuits and possibly some regulatory action. These sociological conflicts will have a dramatic effect on the future of content distribution. If there are stays put in place while the battle rages, you will see technology flourish and older business models crumble. If cable operators and ISPs are allowed to “dial back” your bandwidth to limit “over the top” access, all bets are off!

Link (Thanks, Jennifer!)

internet phones, censorship and net neutrality

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Recently, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated that Skype has signed a contract with the Chinese government stating that Skype would block out certain keywords. (Probably all the daaaangerous stuff, such as freedom, democracy or Mao comics. Kidding. Anyway.) For links and info, see my old post here. Now, this is pretty bad, obviously. Blocking keywords isn’t half as bad as wire-tapping phone calls, for two reasons: First, it’s easier to circumvent blocked keywords: Just use codewords, as anyone talking about something secretly would do anyway. Second, the blocking would probably take part within the Skype network. Wire-tapping on the other hand is most likely done by governments, and without the users knowledge.

Wiretapping on Skype may not be as easy as some government agencies would like it, though, says a great San Jose Mercury News (article also available via freepress.net). While many voice over IP (VoIP) services work through a central system, Skype doesn’t, which makes it harder to filter. Skype is completely decentralized, encrypted (how securely I cannot judge), and since you can login from any computer, it’s even harder to find the call you’re looking for. Now, as soon as you connect from Skype to a regular landline (or the other way round), there’s a connection where governments could wire-tap easily, depending on the national legislations, of course.

The easiest way to solve this issue, from a law enforcement agency point of view, is access to the software that powers the phone calls, of course. Some kind of backdoor, engineered to allow nosy intelligence services to keep an ear on the conversation. That would mean crippling the whole system, though, and pose the risk of letting any interested party gain access, lawful or no. In addition, given that different countries have different legislation, every conversation may be tapped several times: In the originating country, the destination country, as well as the countries the calls are routed through. We might have, in the end, a phone call that’s filtered for keywords in China, then eavesdropped in Germany, just to be analyzed closely in the U.S.

Says the Mercury News article:

“It’s bad policy to cut off the benefits of VOIP and make it vulnerable,” agrees Whit Diffie, chief security officer at Sun Microsystems.

Apart from being an appalling idea, this also wields serious dangers of the more… financially graspable sort. Where technology is regulated to death, so to speak, its development will move abroad:

We are not at that point yet. But Landau warns this kind of regulation is a slippery slope. If peer-to-peer calls become illegal in the United States, the technology will move offshore. Other nations will innovate, and we won’t compete as well. We have to balance the need to enforce laws with the need to move technology forward and at the same time protect our privacy. If we hobble technology to help law enforcement, we make ourselves vulnerable, not safer. We faced this kind of issue in the early 1990s, when the debate was about whether to allow encryption technologies strong enough to hide data from the government. The government later decided to allow strong encryption to be used unencumbered, particularly as the technology was allowed overseas. The outcome here may be the same.

While in the case of Skype I’m not sure this would matter from a U.S. point of view. (Skype’s HQ is in Luxembourg, its developers are distributed around the world, with a bunch of them in Estonia.) But the point is clear.

This also highlights how important it is to not have one or few companies control the whole network. So on that cue, I’d like to take the opportunity to refer to the The Internet Freedom Declaration of 2007. This discussion is, so far, mainly U.S.-based. But let’s face it, if the U.S. won’t provide legislation to guarantee Net Neutrality, then most other countries won’t follow through with it either.

Here’s to the Save The Internet coalition:

Save the Internet: Click here

Larry Lessig on singing in the shower

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Markus got a hold of Lawrence Lessig and has put up some pretty cool videos of their interview.

As a brief sample, Larry Lessig on singing in the shower:

“It is important that there be use of culture free of the regulation of copyright law. And the job of copyright law is to draw the parallels between appropriate places for regulation and appropriate places for freedom. In principle, (…) I could put devices in everybody’s shower and record what songs you sing in the morning and charge you for that. Or in principle, we could be taxing every single context in which music might be performed in order to guarantee that we’re collecting revenues every time music is actually invoked. But I think a more traditional view is to recognize that there are places where the law copyright is appropriate and places where it’s not. And what we have to do in the context of the internet is to try to find a way to draw that line, to distinguish between places where it’s appropriate and places where it’s not.”

netzpolitikTV

Here’s a list of the interview parts.

  1. What is Creative Commons?
  2. What would you tell German politicians about copyright?
  3. What’s the difference between the CC commercial and non-commercial licenses, where’s the line?
  4. Producing creativity: What’s the difference between Sharing Economy, Networked Economy and old economy?
  5. The non-commercial sector: How can Creative Commons licenses help NGOs?
  6. Science: What is the idea behind Science Commons?
  7. What’s wrong with copy protection?
  8. What is Net Neutrality about?
  9. Which license would you prefer for this interview?

Great stuff, thanks Markus! Check out netzpolitik.org for all the videos plus some updates.

All the videos are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0, and if that sounds cryptic to you, just check out this very friendly explanation.

And to complete the hyperlink frenzy: Creative Commons are having their annual fundraising campaign. Supporting them has never been easier: Even if you don’t feel like donating, just watch the “Wanna Work Together” video and click the ad at the end, CC will get 50% of the ad revenue.

State of the Blogosphere (and Forrest Gump)

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While I was offline for a few days, Dave Sifry, weblog ranking chief honcho and founder of Technorati posted his most recent stats about the State Of The Blogosphere, in which he regularly shows trends and stats about the development of the blogging scene.

So what do we learn? First, weblog growth is stable, if a little slower: Currently, Technorati tracks some 57 million blogs. Second, English remains the top language with about 39% of postings with Japanese a close second (33%), followed by Chinese (10%). Surprise, surprise: In contrast to Japanese and Chinese, English and Spanish posts occur all day without a clear local bias based on time zone, indicating that people worldwide post in English and Spanish. Third, and most interesting as I find, are Dave’s findings about blog authority, both compared to mainstream media and within the blogosphere:

Weblogs vs mainstream media

There are still only a few weblogs as influential (or at least linked to) as top mainstream media: 3 in the top 50 and 12 in the top 100. BoingBoing, for example, ranks higher than Time magazine! If you move down the curve a little bit, weblogs do get pretty dominant.

Authority within the blogosphere

With some 57 million weblogs, of course some have to be more influential than others. Dave had a closer look at the weblogs with at least three links or more. That’s some 1.1 million weblogs who represent the top 2 per cent of all existing blogs. Divided into four groups based on authority, two strong correlations showed up: a) Age matters: Weblogs that have existed for longer tend to gain authority. b) Frequency matters: Bloggers who post more often gain more authority. While that’s not a big surprise, it’s good to see that common sense does work when talking about weblogs, too. (The Waving Cat has been existing under this name and URL since May 3, 2006. According to this distinction, it’s somewhere in the middle authority group for reasons unknown to me. That’s roughly 200 days and pretty much fits the scheme. Thanks anyway to everybody who’s reading it, and big hugs to those who’ve linked here. You’re my heroes.)

“Hey, it’s that time of the year again!” Says Dave his post, and right he is. Skimming the State of the Blogosphere stats, I got all melancholic (right!) and started wondering about my personal blogging history. Time for some serious bio building. Poking around in some old webspace of mine (which I won’t disclose), the first test run of a weblog (which wasn’t labeled beta at the time) that I actually referred to as a weblog (or “blogger”) back then dates back to march 2001. (Before, and even then, some had to be updated by FTP manually. Ouch.) Over the next two to three years, it was followed by several others – most of them being in use for between some weeks and several months, some of them just created for a vacation or something. (And let’s be clear on this: None of them particularly worth reading.)

In 2004, I met some top notch bloggers without even noticing: During the build-up to the U.S. presidential elections, I spent a few months in Washington, D.C. At the time (March?), the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet (IPDI) was hosting the annual Politics Online conference, then in its third year. There, clueless as I was, I spent the day with the blogging hotshots Markos Zuniga (dailykos.com) and Matt Stoller (co-creator of The Blogging of the President, and I think also involved in the Save The Internet campaign) without knowing who they were. And so on. What I’m trying to say: I happened to stumble into all kinds of (in relative, weblog-kind-of-a-way) important events and people, mostly completely unaware of their significance.

Makes me feel like Forrest Gump.

(Gives me warm fuzzies, too.)

(Link to the State of the Blogosphere)