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[ NNSquad ] Re: Mall's Wi-Fi blocks "adult" content -- is 900 a synonym for "adult"

900's numbers are very interesting example here at so many levels: Does 900
mean "billed to caller" or does 900 mean "pornography"? So the number may
very well be about pornography because of the ambiguity that stems from the
silo business model.

As Lauren notes 900 numbers are billed to the caller and that's a very
different critter from simply providing transport. That would be like
confusing a water fountain with a bar (one that serves drinks as opposed to
one that serves up legal opinions).

If 900 numbers had end-to-end billing so you could choose to use a credit
card rather than automatically billing it to the phone then it would be no
different from any other phone call. The mall wouldn't pay and it would be
the same thing as calling a store to place an order.

But it isn't the same. The bill is tied to a silo that associates the number
with the billing rate. This was part of the carriers' attempt to replace
credit cards by being the billing service. It turned out very badly because
building billing into the transport only worked for pornography and psychic
hotlines where customers didn't expect flexibility.

Which brings us to the fact that now 900 numbers are implicitly associated
with pornography to the point that the question may very well be asking if
the mall should permit calls to obvious porn, aka 900 numbers.

It is this kind of implicit coupling that frustrates policy discussion
because we associate business with the technologies. Radio, Broadband and
900 numbers have implicit semantics we must be wary of.

Note that France had a similar billing scheme for Minitel - associating the
rate with the number. I presume they had more flexible customer support but,
in the end, it was too rigid to compete with the Internet. Yet we keep the
silo model as we see in the peering tiffs.

PS: Building knowledge into the number recalls the days when your CompuServe
ID was an octal disk address. Encoding information into identifiers turned
out to be a bad idea. Relational databases caught on because they decoupled
us from these accidental properties. Same as decoupling content from
transport. (http://rmf.vc/?n=BeyondLimits for more on decoupling). With so
any compelling examples why do we keep ourselves stuck in the past?

Yet we see this idea arise again in .XXX. Not only is this an architectural
problem -- it doesn't acknowledge the ambiguity. As Lauren has noted, is
calling you doctor from the mall and talking about a genital rash considered
inappropriate? Is talking about a rash on your face acceptable?

     [ Bob raises an interesting point -- 900 numbers were originally
       touted as a wonderful customer support mechanism and for all
       manner of other mundane applications -- but ended up as sex
       lines and little else (even now some 800 numbers forward into
       900 numbers, with painful results for the caller).

       I don't remember using the "rash" example (I avoid rashes
       whenever possible on general principles) but the bottom line
       issue is clear enough.  The U.S. telecom landscape, especially
       in terms of the Internet, is much less a reliable
       infrastructure or utility and much a array of fiefdoms -- some
       tiny, some gigantic.  This wouldn't be so bad -- after all, the
       Internet is by definition a "network of networks" -- but the
       range of important -- even critical -- applications now on the
       Net globally have caused users to think in terms of The Net
       being more like a utility -- and understandably.

       So when we're faced with unilateral actions -- a mall arbitrarily
       deciding you can't connect to certain sites.  The federal 
       government using the domain name system as an arm of asset
       forfeiture (and even censorship) 



-----Original Message-----
From: nnsquad-bounces+nnsquad=bobf.frankston.com@nnsquad.org
[mailto:nnsquad-bounces+nnsquad=bobf.frankston.com@nnsquad.org] On Behalf Of
Dave Kristol
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:13
To: nnsquad@nnsquad.org
Subject: [ NNSquad ] Re: Mall's Wi-Fi blocks "adult" content

 > [...]
> [ Here's a thought experiment. If a mall offered free telephone
> service for their patrons around the mall, through handsets placed at
> various locations, would similar restrictions be acceptable? If a
> customer tried to call a local abortion clinic or an "adult toys"
> store from one of those phones, would it be reasonable for the system
> to cut in and say, "I'm sorry, we will not complete your call as
> dialed, since we consider the business you are calling to not meet our
> ethical standards -- CLUNK." ?
> Is this fundamentally different from the Wi-Fi situation? Even more to
> the point, what if you were trying to call a store in the mall itself
> when this happened?

Continuing the thought experiment, must the free phone service provider
allow 900 calls to go through?  Does the provider have no rights to limit
the service provided?  Is it all or nothing?

Dave Kristol

    [ 900 calls have an extra charge associated with them.  Blocking
      them would be entirely reasonable.  The topic under discussion
      is the blocking of destinations based largely on the "moral"
      determinations of the party providing the service.  Again, would
      such phone call blocking of the sort I described above be
      considered acceptable in any public contexts?  My bet is that most
      people would be outraged.  So why is this any different than
      blocking particular Wi-Fi sites that are engaged in legal
      operations?  I'd like a "pro-blocking" reader to address this
      comparision directly, if you can.

           -- Lauren Weinstein
              NNSquad Moderator ]