Black Friday

BitTorrent campaign shows scary world of no net neutrality

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

June 11, 2014

Some posters have being doing the social media rounds recently, showing, in a way that is both tongue-in-cheek and chilling at the same time, how the internet might look if and when ISP’s are able to take advantage of the death of net neutrality to impose ‘cable-style’ pricing models on internet access…

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A similar poster focuses on AT&T…

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In the same vein, the spoof Join the Fastlane website offers a ‘curated experience’ of the internet…

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BitTorent Inc., who also masterminded a controversial anti-NSA billboard campaign last year, has now admitted that it is behind this rather powerful net neutrality campaign, and in a separate blog post argued that,

The open Internet ushered in an era of sweeping social change. It democratized information and commerce. It triggered GDP growth; a rising standard of living. And it marked an age of nearly unprecedented innovation. We may never see anything like it again, if lawmakers have anything to do with it.

This is by its very definition discrimination. And it’s not abstract; bits or bytes. In a world where we speak in shared photos and video streams, to bias traffic is to bar free speech. In a world where Internet access is fundamental to enterprise and invention, to bias traffic is to effectively end innovation. The stakes are this high. We are short changing-future generations.

On a more positive note, BitTorrent Inc. argues that the P2P BitTorrent protocol could be used as the basis of a ‘Content Centric Network’,

That means that Netflix traffic would no longer be coming from one or two places that are easy to block. Instead, it would be coming from everywhere, all at once; from addresses that were not easily identified as Netflix addresses — from addresses all across the Internet. To the ISP, they are simply zeroes and ones. All equal.

As we know from experience, it’s not so easy to block or censor a Content Centric Network. Historically, attacks from ISPs seeking to spoof the BitTorrent protocol have been easily solved with encryption, assuming an ISP wanted to take such steps of manipulating traffic on their network.

Furthermore, in peer-to-peer systems, each consumer is also a producer. They are, in theory, symmetric. That means that the resulting traffic on the peering links that still must carry the content should be nearly symmetric as well. And that is the economic foundation for settlement free peering: a situation where it’s in each party’s interest to directly connect.’

This sounds a fascinating vision of how ordinary internet users can harness democratizing technologies to take control back away from greedy commercial interests, and we look forward to developments along these lines with a keen interest…

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