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Verizon claims "free speech" right to censor/divert you

Free Speech Internet Access

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#1 Orpheus

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:58 PM

As an admin, I try not to dump too much of my personal politics on you folks, but I have often mentioned how corporation feel that their "civil rights" as "artificial humans" (nowhere in the constitution) trump our civil rights as actual humans (which permeate the entire Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.) Well now, Verizon claims that "Open Internet" rules that let YOU go/say what YOU want on the 'Net violate THEIR right of free speech

Well, that might make sense, if YOUR speech became THEIR speech once it hit their network (Excuse me? I thought *I* PAID for my access to the Internet, and they were SUPPOSED to earn their profits by providing that access for MY purposes), but the FCC has allowed a LOT of similar nonsense to stand over the decades--and the corporations have successfully lobbied Congress to override the FCC when they didn't.

Remember AOL (or Compuserve or Prodigy, etc.) The dominant consumer computer networks successfully "owned" their subscribers for decades. AOL ads billed them as "the Real Internet", well into the late 90s, so they could collect all their customers' adv revenue, and send them only to their partners for all online business, etc. -- unless you snuck out through their gateways, which few knew/bothered to do.

Verizon not only wants to dictate what you can see (e.g. Hulu and Google's YouTube might compete with their own streaming video services) but it wants to censor what you say, as well. Oddly, they are claiming this as a Free Speech "Editorial" right, like a newspaper's Letters to the Editor.

Um, no. There is no "editorial right" over Free Speech (as much as some might wish there were). That would be Freedom of the Press. And if they exercise editorial control over what passes over their network, they can become liable for *everything* that is said. That's why EI doesn't allow "hate speech", as defined by US law, and why the NYTimes can't print a call for assassination.

But Verizon knows that quite well. That's why, when pressed on this issue, while these same 2010 Open Internet rules (which hey now challenge) were being formulated, they backed WAY down saying "The minute that anyone, whether from the government or the private sector, starts to control how people access and use the Internet would be the beginning of the end of the 'net as we know it."

Are they just flinging 'stuff' to see what sticks? Are they laying a foundation in rhetoric for more draconian claims later? They (and the other media corporations) have done both, each year, for decades -- and it works! Even if the rhetoric is later shot down, the rulings made under it remain.

#2 Orpheus

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 09:14 PM

You should try a new service from MIT called Glasnost that “makes ISP traffic-shaping policies transparent to their customers.” The tests measure and compare several types of data traffic that are commonly throttled by ISPs: torrents, e-mail, common HTTP Web access, newsgroups, and Flash-based content like YouTube. Traffic to "unpreferred" sites may also be throttled

You can run the tests directly from the Glasnost site. Each test takes about eight minutes.

As a practical matter, for as long as there have been "test your true Internet speed" sites, I've been warning that ISPs know where all those sites are, and can "cheat" by giving them priority or optimized routing. This potential has since been well confirmed. You have a right to know if you're getting anywhere near the speeds your ISP suggested you'd get. You may discover an innocent, unsuspected local slowdown due to a repairable condition, like a neighborhood connection locus that is improperly sealed against the weather.

In the longer term, we're all going to get faster speeds, so speed differences between providers will have less impact on most users. The second use of Glasnost is to detect "traffic shaping", invisible limits on connections and speed between you and specific sites or with various types of services -- e.g. streaming [Hulu, YouTube] , third-party online telephony [Skype, Vonage], file transfer [FTP, BitTorrent] or privacy [e.g. Tor]. The ISPs have all sorts of "reasons" for "shaping" your traffic. Some may be legitimate, some less so, but either way, they rarely tell you. If you don't know how the internet service you pay for is being throttled, how can you report it to regulators?

#3 FnlPrblm

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 03:45 AM

I'd hate to say it this way, but would regulators even care at this point?  I mean, for them to step in and be on your side, a default legislator/regulator would be siding with potential "pirates", scallywags and bloggers that are merely complaining. (Looking at it from their political point of view that is.)  Where as on the other side is big business, who like you said, is already greasing their wheels more than likely.

Still, it's good to know that there are some legitimate things out there (not some random code creator from their basement) to which we can find out true testings on.
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#4 Orpheus

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 02:26 PM

I've expressed a similar disgruntled pessimism on EI for the past year or two (and it's been fuming in my head for a lot longer) but I've noticed a rather surprising pro-consumer trend since the election (which suggests that these actions and the philosophy behind them have been waiting offstage for a while)

The FCC commissioners have been reasonably pro-consumer, pro-"open access" for some years now, but other consumer protection agencies have implemented a striking number of actions against abusive corporations in the last month. I've been meaning to start a thread on this reversal of inaction to complement my ongoing threads with egregious "current events" examples of abuses by corporations and poor (sometimes borderline corrupt) legislation and IMHO misguided legal decisions/precedents

#5 SparkyCola

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 06:50 AM

I saw an article the other day about Google removing links to websites which are accused of breaching copyright. Except YouTube, of course, in which it has a vested interest. The article rather hotly accused Google of becoming a content management/distribution system instead of the free search engine it once was.

Of course, this is a grey area. What about kiddy porn, for instance? Should we allow people to make their own decisions about that?

But it feels like rather a slippery slope all the same, to have Google deciding what I can and can't access based on tenuous, inconsistent and questionable grounds.

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#6 Orpheus

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Posted 13 January 2013 - 07:09 PM

Well, there's one huge difference between Google and an ISP.

Google CAN'T stop you from viewing any internet content except its own. [From the user viewpoint] the Google search engine exists as only a free convenience, suggesting content that matches your query. It is not the only search engine, and plays no intrinsic role in the Internet.

(YouTube OTOH is a content provider and therefore CAN'T AVOID making decisions about removal of its own content. There's an overwhelming body of material demonstrating that Google is has actually been a fairly strong legal force for good in this regard (they can't be financially bullied], while erstwhile content owners have been abusing the process badly. Warner tried to shut down YouTube for (among other things) content that it uploaded itself, even in an official capacity and/or under contract with YouTube. People claiming to be or represent content owners have issued takedown notices (which are simple letters) for competing companies, political parties, independent content creators, etc. Google recently began posting the DMCA takedown notices [100Ks/day] they receive, and it's fairly obvious that these notices have become blunt weapons, with absolutely no regard for actual ownership

Your ISP CAN censor you from viewing internet content, by simply blocking packets to/from specific IPs, removing domains from its DNS server so their IPs can't be looked up by your browser, etc

Yes, there are many possible customer workarounds, but these are not only technical, but are prone to an arms race, with the ISP having an intrinsic advantage. If you send your packet via a proxy, rather than directly to/from a blocked site, they can do Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and determine the true destination to block the packets. If you encrypt your proxy connection, they are perfectly situated to perform a Man0in-the-Middle attack (In fact, it was just discovered this week that Nokia had embedded  a certificate to actively perform man-in-the-middle attacks on ALL internet access via their phones. Opera also admitted they were doing this with their Opera Mini browser (but most of us who understand such things had figured that out years ago) You can VPN, but ISPs may diallow/'break' such connections

In the end, every ISP has the capability to enact their own "Great (Fire)Wall of China, especially since the vast majority of citizens would be blithely unaware of the limitations and would probably not know (or apathetically not care) how to work around them.

In the US, for example, it has been definitively shown that ISPs have been holding bandwidths down, not because would cost them more to offer the rates found in many other developed nations, but because they prefer to charge more for artificial tiers (it actually costs more to throttle lower tiers than to offer unthrottled service) and hope to limit access to outside services [e.g. Comcast/NBC, the largest US ISP, prefers that you watch THEIR video sources, use THEIR VOIP, see THEIR ads)

Ads are an interesting battlefield. That's where the real money is (it's what funds US TV/newspapers/radio after all). Over the past decade quite a few ISPs have experimented with filtering out the ads on websites and substituting their own -- enriching their own coffers while starving competitors who endure the expense of providing the content, but gain no advertising revenue. DPI and ad substitution are built into ISP hardware these days (in quite mature/sophisticated forms) but have only been temporarily activated by most ISPs, because they settle/shut down when it appears that a lawsuit MAY succeed -- they don't want a definitive precedent against the practice, when they know that under the right circumstances they may get a precedent in favor of the practice. [standard business practice]



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