Advocacy group claims deep packet inspection puts free, open Internet in danger


We’ve spoken about deep packet inspection before, noting that authorities are using it to tackle crimes like the proliferation of online child pornography. It’s convenient for the deep packet folks to hitch their wagon to such an issue, since no one is going to come out against it when it’s being used to combat that type of content. (No one wants to be seen as being “soft” on that type of stuff.) But what happens when your ISP starts using deep packet inspection to goad you into using their preferred services? An advocacy group fears for the Internet’s integrity were that to happen.

In a report entitled “Deep Packet Inspection Puts Open Internet at Risk,” [PDF link here] Free Press says that if ISPs use deep packet inspection wily nilly, the free and open Internet, the kind we know and use every dya, could be at risk. (Remember: deep packet inspection is when your ISP, or other entity, analyzes and inspects every single packet of data you send, thereby determining not only what protocols you’re using (FTP, BitTorrent, etc.) but what content you’re consuming. It’d be as if the ISP were looking over your shoulder every time you log onto the Internet.) The privacy concerns are obvious, sure, but what about the very nature of the Internet?

For example, let’s say I own an ISP. We have a deal with Company A, which provides a service using some protocol. Then we turn to you, our customers, and say, “Look, we’ll give you unlimited bandwidth when it comes to using Company A’s services, but if you choose to use Company B’s, then we’ll charge you $1 per megabyte of data you transfer.” In this scenario, we’re basically encouraging you, our subscribers, to go with Company A, with whom we have a deal, at the expense of Company B. Thus, the breakdown of the Internet as we know it.

You’ll recall that Comcast was constantly screwing with BitTorrent traffic last year, eventually leading to FCC intervention. You wonder, then, why Coxis prepared to throttle P2P and other non-time sensitive traffic, especially when you consider how the new FCC chairman is a proponent of net neutrality (even is he hasn’t been dwelling on it of late).

Some questions to ponder this weekend, friends.

via Ars Technica