Deneutralizing the net

Technology Review, which jumps on the Web 3.0 bandwagon in its current issue, reports that Stanford’s Clean Slate Design for the Internet program will be holding a coming out party this Wednesday. The interdisciplinary program seems to take the end of “net neutrality” as a given. Its thrust, in fact, is to make the Internet less Internety (at least as we’ve come to define the term) by redesigning it to be “inherently secure,” by making it possible to “determine the value of a packet … to better allocate the resources of the network, providing high-value traffic with higher bandwidth, more reliability, or lower latency paths,” and by “support[ing] anonymity where prudent, and accountability where necessary.”

Reports Technology Review:

The Internet may have revolutionized society, but [Stanford professor Nick]McKeown points out that there are still some basic things it doesn’t do well. There’s no reliable way of knowing whom data comes from, for example, because the Internet was designed in a way that makes it “ridiculously easy” to fake any information’s origin, McKeown says. It would be much easier to eliminate unsolicited e-mail messages if the sender could be verified because spammers could be quickly identified and prosecuted.

The intent of data can also be masked. Data packets that might look as though they were sent for a legitimate purpose could actually be intended to damage the network by spreading viruses or searching for secret information. When the Internet was first designed, “it was assumed that everyone would be well behaved, but we’re obviously in an era now where we can’t make that assumption,” McKeown says.

Commenting on the initiative, networking pioneer Bob Metcalfe goes even further, arguing that

there needs to be a way to ensure dedicated bandwidth. “The Internet was designed to get teletype characters echoed across the U.S. in under a half second,” Metcalfe wrote in an e-mail interview. “Soon we’ll have to handle [high-definition] video conversations around the world. The Internet must now allow bandwidth reservation, not just priority, to carry realtime, high-bandwidth communication – video in its many forms including video telephone.”

Maybe it will be the geeks rather than the suits who end up killing net neutrality.

6 Comments

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6 Responses to Deneutralizing the net

  1. Network neutrality, if it ever existed, died when the NSF backbone was shut down and the Internet became a public packet exchange instead of a private party for academics. Intense network geeks have known this all along, which is why we consider the neutrality bandwagon a ship of fools.

  2. pwb

    That all sounds good but it’s easy to see that the internet is the outrageously, crazy, massive deal it is precisely because it is *none* of what is described in this post. Surely people remember Compuserve, Genie, AOL, Delphi, et al?

  3. Michael Chui

    I don’t remember where I found this today, but you might want to have a look at it. I couldn’t help thinking, “This will destroy network neutrality utterly,” as I watched it, and yet, I liked it.

    http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-6972678839686672840

  4. pwb: the internet is the outrageously, crazy, massive deal it is precisely because it is *none* of what is described in this post. Surely people remember Compuserve, Genie, AOL, Delphi, et al?

    Some people seem to have very short memories. I remember being mightily impressed when someone showed me a business card with three different email addresses – you could contact this guy on Compuserve, on AOL and on the IBM Network! This would be around 1997, 1996 at the earliest.

    When the Internet was first designed, “it was assumed that everyone would be well behaved, but we’re obviously in an era now where we can’t make that assumption,” McKeown says.

    Another curious loss of perspective. Chen and Robert (2004), The Evolution of Viruses and Worms:

    “On November 2, 1988, the famous Morris worm disabled 6,000 computers in a few hours (constituting 10 percent of the Internet at that time).”

    This reminds me of our own Prime Minister’s celebrated assertion that “We are trying to fight 21st century crime – anti-social behaviour, drug-dealing, binge-drinking, organised crime – with 19th century methods”. There were no hackers and viruses back in the nineties – just like there was no anti-social behaviour in the nineteenth century. Our problem is new! We need new thinking! You need to do what I say and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

  5. Nick Carr

    three different email addresses

    Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then. Now there’s only:

    email address (corporate)

    email address (personal)

    office phone number

    mobile number

    fax number

    skype address

    IM address (or two)

    web address

    blog address

    MySpace address

    Facebook address

    Second Life name

    Twitter address

    etc.

  6. A Clean Slate researcher from Stanford recently gave a talk at my university, and the whole thing was a thinly veiled attack against Network Neutrality. I blogged about my discussion with the speaker and his weak response: http://artificialminds.blogspot.com/2008/02/if-it-aint-broke-dont-fix-it.html