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[ NNSquad ] Re: Comcast using Sandvine to Interfere with P2P

> A railroad is a common carrier, but it has the right to stop a robber on the
> train. It also has a right to insist that passengers remain orderly
> and not (for example) commit vandalism or harass other passengers.
> Likewise, a power company is a common carrier, but it has the right
> to insist that customers not steal power or damage its lines. To
> claim that ISPs have no right to monitor their networks is akin to
> saying that a railroad has no right to have a conductor on the train
> who might keep you from robbing other passengers or vandalizing
> the train.

Your argument about a railroad and robber is a straw man. Of course,
we all agree that a robber should be prevented from robbing the train.
However, there are several problems with your example.

One, who is the robber? The only comparable example I can think of is
a server that subverts the normal flow of traffic from an ISP customer
so that it can introspect the payload and steal the contents which may
or may not be valuable. Are you maintaining that ISPs are guaranteeing
traffic delivery such that the contents of the communication have not
been stolen by some other entity within your network? If this is the
case, and it is not, this does not invlove packet introspection or
tools that shape traffic.

Two, who defines what is abusive/criminal? Normally, that falls on the
public's shoulders for public resources like the internet. Does an ISP
act in the public's interest? Of course an ISP does not act in the
public's interest; ISPs act on behalf of their owner's interest.

Three, the act of being able to introspect traffic and use discretion
as to which traffic will flow over the common carrier is power. In the
railroad example, that amounts to the railroad searching each of their
customers to determine their business for using the common carrier, a
power they do not have the prerogative for, just the luxury of since
they service the network/railroad. However, this is power that is
given to a sheriff, a publicly elected official that is invested with
protecting the interest of the public. I do not think there is such
thing as altruism on the part of ISPs since they are generally for
profit businesses, therefore there is a conflict of interest with an
ISP monitoring and shaping their own traffic. ISPs are the gateway to
the internet, not the gatekeepers. The power that the railroad owner
should have is determining rate for passengers and freight. The
railroad should not have the power to introspect for the purposes of
determining "lawful" traffic. There are governmental agencies that are
trusted to act in the public's interest and have the right to inspect
freight to determine criminality.

Four, there is an issue of privacy. ISPs do not have the right to
inspect the contents of my communication with another party whether it
is for benign reasons like shaping traffic or not. To know the intent
of an IP datagram requires inspecting the datagram to determine the
type of payload and then opening the payload to extract the port if
the payload is a TCP packet. This seems to be very similar to opening
other people's parcels and making their business your business.

Five, I believe that if a third party opens parcels between two
parties that act is considered criminal; in other words, I do not have
the prerogative to open other people's mail unless granted authority.
Since ISPs want to be gatekeepers, are they responsible when packets
get through that are criminal? After all, if ISPs can identify
robbers, they have a duty to report to a law enforcement agency if a
crime is being committed. If they were not to report known criminal
activity, and not knowing how to identify the latest and greatest
robber is no excuse, that would be considered conspiracy. What good is
a railroad that sometimes identifies robbers correctly? Should ISPs be
responsible for false-positives?