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Yes Virginia, ISPs Have Silently Blocked Web Sites

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the something-to-think-about dept.

Censorship 204

Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "A recurring theme in editorials about Net Neutrality -- broadly defined as the principle that ISPs may not block or degrade access to sites based on their content or ownership (with exceptions for clearly delineated services like parental controls) -- is that it is a "solution in search of a problem", that ISPs in the free world have never actually blocked legal content on purpose. True, the movement is mostly motivated by statements by some ISPs about what they might do in the future, such as slow down customers' access to sites if the sites haven't paid a fast-lane "toll". But there was also an oft-forgotten episode in 2000 when it was revealed that two backbone providers, AboveNet and TeleGlobe, had been blocking users' access to certain Web sites for over a year -- not due to a configuration error, but by the choice of management within those companies. Maybe I'm biased, since one of the Web sites being blocked was mine. But I think this incident is more relevant than ever now -- not just because it shows that prolonged violations of Net Neutrality can happen, but because some of the people who organized or supported AboveNet's Web filtering, are people in fairly influential positions today, including the head of the Internet Systems Consortium, the head of the IRTF's Anti-Spam Research Group, and the operator of Spamhaus. Which begs the question: If they really believe that backbone companies have the right to silently block Web sites, are some of them headed for a rift with Net Neutrality supporters?" Read on for the rest of his story.

In the aforementioned instance, AboveNet and TeleGlobe were not selling "parental filters" or other common types of filtered Internet access; the users being blocked from our Web sites were adults paying for what they thought were unfiltered Internet connections. What had happened was that AboveNet and TeleGlobe signed up to block Web sites on the Realtime Blackhole List, a list which was widely (but inaccurately) thought to be a list of "spammers", put out by a group called the Mail Abuse Prevention System. (MAPS and the RBL still exist, but under new management and in a form that bears little resemblance to their late-90's forerunners.) Most ISPs that used the RBL used it to filter only incoming e-mail, but AboveNet went all-out and blocked users from even viewing RBL'ed web sites, presumably because two of MAPS's founders, Paul Vixie and Dave Rand, were on the AboveNet board of directors. And it turned out that the RBL not only included spammers, but also Web sites that were not sending mail at all but were blocked because of their content -- in our case, our ISP got blocked because some other customers were selling mailing list software that MAPS believed could be too easily abused by spammers.

These two distinctions -- (1) the distinction between blocking incoming e-mail from spammers, versus blocking Web sites; and (2) the distinction between blocking traffic due to spam activity, versus blocking sites because of their content -- both go to the heart of what Net Neutrality is, and isn't, about. Net Neutrality is about user preferences -- not meaning that as a buzzword, but as an actual guiding principle to figure out what is and is not covered by the cause. If an ISP filters incoming mail from known spammers, that generally improves the user experience, and is something many users would expect an ISP to do anyway. But if an ISP blocks users from reaching Web sites (even, for the sake of argument, the Web sites of actual spammers), then that's generally counteracting the user's wishes -- if the user didn't want to go there, they wouldn't have typed it in. (After all, I visit spammers' Web sites all the time, usually right before I sue them.) Similarly, if an ISP blocks traffic from sites because of spam or other network abuse, that serves to protect their own users. But if an ISP blocks users from viewing sites because of their content, that's generally not expected by users, unless they've specifically signed up for something like parental controls. The Snowe Net Neutrality amendment proposed last year recognized both of these distinctions, and stated that nothing in the amendment would be interpreted to prohibit spam filtering, parental control services, or measures to protect network security.

The MAPS incident thus shaped most of my opinions about Net Neutrality 6 years before the debate even had a name. When I first found out in August 2000 that our ISP was blacklisted, like most people I believed that the RBL really was a list of spammers; after all the MAPS web page said that the RBL was a list of networks that "originate or relay spam". So I called my ISP screaming at them for being incompetent spam-enablers (the culmination of many frustrating issues with them), and saying that if they really were letting customers send spam, or running an insecure server that spammers were hijacking, I would leave on principle, if the cretins managing our server didn't drop it in the lake first. The ISP owner then told me what happened: that the ISP was not blacklisted for spamming customers, but because of the content of the other sites. (Buried in the list of RBL criteria on MAPS's site was the statement that sites could be blacklisted for providing "spam software", although the criteria did not define how they distinguished between spam software and regular mailing list software, which is how our ISP got caught in the net. And the criteria did not disclose anywhere the most controversial feature of the RBL, which is that if an ISP didn't comply, MAPS would start blacklisting other unrelated sites at the same ISP to put more pressure on them.) I agreed that this seemed to be absurd, and said I wouldn't leave the ISP if they were being blackballed just because of the content of hosted pages.

I don't know exactly what the mail software in question did or where MAPS thought the line should be drawn, but I am a purist about content -- it's a long-standing principle among the Internet security community that if a tool exists which exploits a security hole, you don't try to make the software disappear, you fix the hole. And besides, since MAPS and their supporters wanted to blackball ISPs that hosted spamming software (however you defined that), but the same people had never advocated blackballing ISPs that hosted network break-in tools and other cracking programs, for example, then what were they really saying? That spamming someone more unethical than breaking into their network?

But by far the most common objection to my complaint about AboveNet blocking Web sites was, "Hey, if a private company blocks things, as long as they're being honest to their users about it, who cares?" Well, true, but the fact that AboveNet blocked Web sites was not widely known even within the company; when I once called AboveNet feigning ignorance and asking them if they blocked RBL'ed Web sites, the technician who spoke to me said, "No, that wouldn't make any sense." (Well, half right.) Their AUP mentioned "protecting users from spam" but said nothing about blocking Web sites. In fact, other than "family-filtered" ISPs and similar services, I've never heard of any company blocking Web sites that actually did try to make their users aware of it. (On the other hand, even if AboveNet had fully disclosed their filtering, they were still a backbone company selling connectivity mainly to ISPs -- and I think if you sell something wholesale that can only be re-sold to the public by fraudulent means, then you're at least partly complicit in that fraud as well.)

If you're tempted to argue that backbone providers should be allowed to block whatever they want as long as they bury it in their AUP (although AboveNet and TeleGlobe didn't even do that much), just consider: When you access Google from your home computer, have you read the AUP of every network that the packets pass through, to check whether they reserve the right to block or even modify your traffic? Without doing a traceroute, could you even name all the networks that the traffic passes through? Do you really want the burden to be on you to check with all of them every time there's a problem reaching a Web site? Or do you feel like there's an understanding that as long as you pay your bill, they should let you go wherever you want?

Some have argued that if an ISP blocks the user from reaching a Web site, then even if the ISP is defrauding the user, that's still strictly an issue between the user and the ISP. But if a user is trying to reach your Web site, the user is trying to give you something of value: their attention, their eyeballs on your advertisements, sometimes even their money (with the expectation that you will provide them with something in return, of course, like some content worth reading). If the ISP steps in and blocks that, then the ISP has taken something of value that the user was attempting to give to you, and diverted it to serve their own interests. To me that doesn't seem ethically much different from the FedEx driver swiping the chocolates that someone tried to send you for Valentine's Day. Is that just between the sender and FedEx? Or do you have a beef because you didn't get the present that was intended for you, and you had to eat last week's chocolates to cheer up?

The modern-day threats to Net Neutrality are different: slowing access to Web sites unless the site owners pay a "toll", instead of blocking access to sites because of the content of other sites hosted at the same ISP. But they both boil down to the same thing: not giving end users what they have already paid for. If a user buys Internet access, they almost always buy it with the understanding that if they access a site, the content will download as quickly as their connection allows.

Thus the most common misconception about Net Neutrality is that the proponents are fighting against "capitalism" -- ISPs just charging more for different delivery speeds. But ISPs are already charging users for those delivery lines -- including different tiers for different prices. That's capitalism, and it works, with prices falling all the time in a fairly competitive market. But charging publishers for those higher delivery speeds to the user's house, is really more like double-billing, because the user has already been charged once for the lines that the content is coming over, so the ISP is trying to charge the content publisher again for the same service. Of course, if you charge party A for doing X, and then you try to charge party B for the same instance of doing X, and party B doesn't pay up so you don't do X, you're also breaking your deal with A. Brad Templeton of the EFF stated as much on his blog in 2006:

The pipes start off belonging to the ISPs but they sell them to their customers. The customers are buying their line to the middle, where they meet the line from the other user or site they want to talk to. The problem is generated because the carriers all price the lines at lower than they might have to charge if they were all fully saturated, since most users only make limited, partial use of the lines. When new apps increase the amount a typical user needs, it alters the economics of the ISP. They could deal with that by raising prices and really delivering the service they only pretend to sell, or by charging the other end, and breaking the cost contract. They've rattled sabres about doing the latter.
And I think the same is clearly true if, instead of trying to extract money from the content publisher, the ISP tries to extract something else, like an agreement to shut down certain Web sites before the ISP will let their users view other sites hosted at the same company. You can talk all day about how evil those Web sites are, but the ISP has already sold the user a connection with the implied ability to access them.

Anyway, this all came out in 2000 when a Slashdot article revealed that AboveNet had been blocking Web sites, and AboveNet stopped doing it two hours after the article came out. (TeleGlobe stuck with it for a few more months.) But from the hostility of the reaction, you'd think that we had published cartoons in a Danish newspaper showing Paul Vixie with a bomb in his turban. I got more e-mails than I could count arguing that AboveNet had the right to block whatever Web sites they felt like, regardless of whether the end users knew it was happening. To those people, I'd be sincerely interested in their answer to this question: Does that mean they've have no problem if they found out their ISP was silently blocking sites for political reasons? There is a clear line between following user preferences by blocking spam, and countermanding user preferences by blocking sites because of their content -- and once you've crossed that line, where's the logical stopping point? Seriously, I would have liked to have known how they would answer that, if I could have gotten any meaningful dialog going with them, which most of the time I couldn't. At the time, I'd just spent four years telling people that kids looking at porn was a non-issue, and that by the way if their kids came to my Web site I'd even help them get around their blocking software, and I still got more angry e-mails for disclosing the fact that AboveNet blocked Web sites based on their content, than I'd gotten in all the previous four years combined. (A few even accused us of moving into a blacklisted address block on purpose. This was because the actual move happened after the blacklisting was in place, even though I told them all that our ISP had announced the coming move two months before -- repeat, before -- they ever heard from MAPS. Some people were so in love with that "smoking gun" that they didn't believe me; that's their prerogative. But don't take my word for it -- when one supporter wrote to MAPS to ask about un-blocking our site, MAPS officer Kelly Thompson replied:

>Would it be possible to
>selectively unblock peacefire.org (209.211.253.169)?
Technically? Yes, it is. It's a violation of our policy, though, so I can't do so.

I would be willing to help you find other free or reduced cost hosting, however.

It was MAPS's decision, not ours or our ISP's, to have our site blocked. That should settle that once and for all, just as soon as there is peace in the Middle East and a black lesbian in the White House.)

But what do all these people think about Net Neutrality, 6 years later? I tried to track down the influential people who had spoken out supporting AboveNet's blocking of Web sites, or at least their right to block Web sites. My position was, we can agree to disagree on that, but if they really feel that way, why haven't they been speaking out against Net Neutrality? The proposed Snowe amendment was pretty clear:

SEC. 12. INTERNET NEUTRALITY
(a) Duty of Broadband Service Providers- With respect to any broadband service offered to the public, each broadband service provider shall--
(1) not block, interfere with, discriminate against, impair, or degrade the ability of any person to use a broadband service to access, use, send, post, receive, or offer any lawful content, application, or service made available via the Internet.

John Levine, webmaster of Abuse.Net, head of the IRTF's Anti-Spam Research Group, and one of the most vocal critics of Peacefire's campaign against AboveNet's Web filtering, said that he would have opposed the bill but didn't bother because it didn't have much chance of passing. Well, it didn't, but the bill was significant not because of its likelihood of passage, but because it articulated the principles that the Net Neutrality coalition had rallied around, and with the momentum behind the movement, it's likely to achieve at least some of its goals, by legislation or otherwise.

Paul Vixie, Dave Rand, and Steve Linford did not respond to requests for comment on Net Neutrality. But Paul Vixie wrote something very interesting in a May 2006 blog post:

Second, there's network neutrality. In telephone service, the government mandates that all companies providing voice-grade telephony interconnect with eachother at preset rates, thus ensuring that any phone can call any other phone and that new phone companies can enter the field to help ensure competition. In Internet service, the government mandates nothing. Recently SBC (I mean AT&T, I think, is it Wednesday?) rattled its sabre and said that Google and other content supplying companies should be paying for the use of SBC's backbone to reach SBC's eyeballs. Most of us said, uh, what? "Aren't SBC's own customers paying SBC to carry that traffic?" Some of us even said "I am not an eyeball, I am a person!" But anyway, from time to time these Internet companies shut down interconnects in hopes of creating new cash flows among eachother, and until the government regulates this, we're all at risk of higher prices or lower service with zero notice. Some well meaning democrats are trying to challenge this with "network neutrality" legislation, but this probably isn't their year. Or their decade.

San Francisco has a government, though. And if San Francisco owned and operated its own wireless Internet plant, we could mandate that any Internet company wishing to do business in this city interconnect at fair and reasonable cost to all other Internet companies wishing to do business in this city.

"Until the government regulates this"? "Government mandates"? "Fair and reasonable cost"? Quick, call the anti-socialist intervention squad! How long does it take those San Francisco hippies to suck the new arrivals' brains out anyway? Of course, I agree with everything he said. It's just that if you replace "create new cash flows" with "try to get ISPs to remove content from their servers", this describes exactly what Vixie and AboveNet were doing a few years earlier. He's a smart guy, and I'm sure this didn't escape his sense of irony, so perhaps this confirms something I'd suspected all along, which is that Vixie understood the subtleties of the issue better than most of his cheerleaders, and may be having second thoughts about AboveNet's Web-blocking misadventure. From the beginning, in a 1997 interview with Sun World, he sounded like someone trying to at least keep an open mind:

Concentration of power into a single individual: It's very true that power has corrupted every individual in whom it has ever been concentrated in the history of mankind. I do not feel that I am necessarily above whatever elements of human nature give rise to that. I worry about it. Probably other people worry about it more than I do.
Although, he didn't get to making any such frank statements during the controversy over AboveNet's Web site blocking. (Perhaps MAPS's lawyers were worried that he was a little too unfiltered and advised him not to comment; at the time, the MAPS Web site had a "How to sue MAPS" link on the front page.)

Speaking of which, Anne Mitchell, Director of Legal and Public Affairs for MAPS during the time when AboveNet was blocking Web sites, was the only MAPS adherent from the era that I could find who has since clearly and publicly come out against Net Neutrality. In May 2006 she wrote:

Here's the thing that the 3Ns (Net Neutrality Nuts) don't get: bandwidth costs money. And if you can't charge those who use the majority of it accordingly, then you are going to have to amortize it across everybody.

So, if a net neutrality law passes, don't be surprised when your costs to have an Internet account skyrocket.

Because somebody has to pay those bills, and if the law says that the ISPs can't charge the big guys - the big users - differently, it means that they have to charge them the same rate that they charge everyone else. And that means not that their rate will go down, but that everybody else's rate will go up.
And then again in February 2007 in another blog post titled "Towards A Nanny Internet", she wrote, "Network neutrality is the idea that ISPs should be forced to charge everybody the same for their Internet use", grouping it together with proposed anti-bullying and anti-anonymity laws.

Well, points to Anne for being consistent, and for publicly declaring her views in no uncertain terms, which is all I'm asking of the other supporters of AboveNet's website blocking policy. (Although she's coming at it from a different angle this time, "How do we work out who pays for the traffic" rather than "ISPs should be allowed to block whatever they want without telling anybody".) But this is also a textbook example of what I think are the three major fallacies of opposition to Net Neutrality:

First, lumping it together with other examples of unpopular regulation and calling it one more example of Big Government -- an argument also tried in other editorials ("Politicians and public figures alike should realize the absurdity of advocating more red tape to keep the Internet free"). This meme has never really caught on, possibly because groups like the ACLU and the EFF that have traditionally opposed true Internet censorship, have lined up in favor of Net Neutrality. All the proposed "red tape" and "regulation" really says is that if a user attempts to access a Web site over a connection that they've paid for, the ISP may not block or slow down their access, a law which most people would hardly consider tyrannical.

Second, asserting that "Network neutrality is the idea that ISPs should be forced to charge everybody the same for their Internet use." I've never actually heard anyone advocate anything close to that, but a common question among skeptics is why different "tiers" for Internet traffic are really any different from different-tiered pricing for dial-up vs. DSL, or for different levels of Web hosting. The difference is that when users and Web site owners pay for those connections, they are paying for their respective connections to the rest of the Internet. But an ISP charging a Web site owner to carry their traffic the last mile to the user's house, is not charging for a product or service, but really charging a fee not to break a service that they've already agreed to provide to the user.

Which leads to the third misconception: "Here's the thing that the 3Ns (Net Neutrality Nuts) don't get: bandwidth costs money... So, if a net neutrality law passes, don't be surprised when your costs to have an Internet account skyrocket." But it's not about how much a service costs, but about the ethics of double-billing for it. We know that ISP pricing models can already support the total traffic that people consume today, and ISPs do already follow net neutrality principles most of the time, so nobody's costs will "skyrocket" just because a neutrality law passes. If vastly more people start trying to stream CNN over the Internet 24/7, and fully using the services that ISPs have "only been pretending to sell" as Brad Templeton put it, then ISPs may have to charge more for users who consume too much bandwidth, encouraging people to stay at today's average levels by rationing themselves and perhaps watching 24 on their $5,000 TV sets sometimes instead of downloading it off of BitTorrent to their laptop every week because it makes them feel like a haX0r. Much as we all love our unmetered connections, it wouldn't be a violation of Net Neutrality for ISPs to charge users for bandwidth hogging, to keep everyone from going too far above today's levels. What ISPs should not do is charge users for implied full-throttle connections, and then turn around to charge publishers for moving bits over those same lines, or block the connection for any other reason.

So, yes, Virginia, blocking of Web sites does happen -- and by "Virginia", I mean FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, who said in a speech in August 2006: "I have to say, thus far, proponents of net neutrality regulation have not come to us to explain where the market is failing or what anticompetitive conduct we should challenge; we are open to hearing from them." This was echoed in an editorial later that month from Sonia Arrison of the Pacific Research Institute:

Internet service providers have voluntarily upheld content-neutral practices without the need for government intervention, and consumers would never stand for blocked Web sites... If the loss of net neutrality principles was really a problem, advocates wouldn't need to scare Americans in order to win their support. Using government regulation preemptively to shortchange business partners is a reckless abuse of the public policy process. New laws should be based on facts and reality, not fear and hypothetical situations.
I guess both of those ladies' ISPs must be blocking access to the SaveTheInternet.com Web site, so I e-mailed both of them the coalition's list of examples, and added a note about the AboveNet/TeleGlobe incident as well. No personal response from either of them yet, but I'm sure they just got lost in the shuffle while they were so busy sending out corrections. (On the other hand, I did get a courteous response from Randolph J. May of the Free State Foundation, when I wrote to him about an editorial he penned which also argued that violations have not happened: "It is generally agreed that except for a few isolated and quickly remedied incidents, neither the cable operators nor the telephone companies providing broadband Internet services have blocked, impaired or otherwise restricted subscriber access to the content of unaffiliated entities." He said he hadn't known about the AboveNet/TeleGlobe incident either.)

Another theme in some anti-Net-Neutrality editorials is that existing laws are enough to deal with the problem. In Majoras's speech, she said, "We should not forget that we already have in place an existing law enforcement and regulatory structure." Arrison's echoed that "Numerous federal agencies already have set a basic legal framework in place to preserve fair competition and business practices on the Internet". Well, as Yogi Berra says, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is. After I found out AboveNet and TeleGlobe were blocking my Web site, I called about twenty lawyers in the Bellevue phone book, figuring: I wasn't greedy, but surely there would be financial damages for deceiving users and blocking our site, enough to pay a lawyer in return for handling the case? I think about two lawyers called me back, and they both said that even though what the backbone companies were doing clearly looked like fraud, it would take tens of thousands of dollars just to get started, and even if we ever got to court, the judge could call it however they wanted. Whatever laws exist now, they may help the slightly smaller big guy against the bigger big guy, but are not much use to the little or medium-sized guy.

So, any informed debate about Net Neutrality has to include the fact that, yes, some providers have blocked Web sites on purpose, for long periods of time, and no, the free market didn't fix it by itself. Even if something on that scale never happens again, if the free market and the anti-trust laws didn't automatically correct a case where Web sites were being blocked outright, then it's wishful thinking to think that those forces will prevent ISPs from merely slowing down Web access to sites that haven't paid a "toll", as they have made noises about doing. One AboveNet customer, Sam Knutson, said when he found out about the Web site blocking, "This type of behavior on the part of an ISP is reprehensible. I pay for a pipe and don't expect this type of monkey business." Well, I agree that it's reprehensible; whether we should "expect" more of it or not, depends on how much the Net Neutrality movement achieves its goals.

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204 comments

Nothing to see here (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18429789)

Slightly worryingly, the first time I clicked on the link to this story, I got a blank Slashdot page with the message

Nothing to see here. Please move along.

The ISPs should lose their 'common carrier' status (4, Interesting)

rthille (8526) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429817)

And thus be liable to be sued for _any_ content they carry.

Irony? (1)

JhohannaVH (790228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429859)

Did I sense just a tad bit of Irony there? :)

Protected free speech is going the way of the goony bird... for years and years, I've been saying that the Internet would continue to protect that free speech and media, but it looks like even that is going away. :(

Orwell only scratched the surface, methinks.

Re:Irony? (1)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430157)

Orwell didn't know about the Internet (and probably not about computers (in the modern sense)).

And not only that, the difference is that Orwell was warning against Government. This is the corporate sector, though I am sure that he would have been against any gains in power by corporations. He was, after all, a socialist.

Re:Irony? (2, Insightful)

JhohannaVH (790228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430207)

Oh, I know. But if we think that the Government can't/won't pull these stunts, we're rather blind sheep. Well, I'm not, but... the vast majority out there are.

Re:Irony? (5, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430467)

And not only that, the difference is that Orwell was warning against Government. This is the corporate sector...

It never occurred to me that there was a difference.

Re:Irony? (1)

JhohannaVH (790228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431419)

There isn't anymore, that's for damn sure. One look at SOX will tell you that! :D

Re:Irony? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430533)

...Orwell was warning against Government. This is the corporate sector...

Seeing how our government has become a de facto subsidiary of the corporate sector, I'm not sure I see the difference.

Re:The ISPs should lose their 'common carrier' sta (4, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430163)

Here's the problem: this article is misleading enough that it doesn't do justice to that point AT ALL. The article SEEMS to be about Net neutrality, but is instead a piece that essentially covers the history of RBLs, which have moved from a model of maximum-pain to a model of maximum-gain. That is, they've moved away from trying to cause pain to large blocks of the Net (which turns away users of the service, and defeats the point), to a model such as Spamhaus's where sites are filtered based on a) being a spam source b) being identified as a highly probable spam source (e.g. zombied PCs, open proxies, etc.) or c) being identified as a service which chronically abuses spamming as a marketing technique (e.g. servers whose Web services are commonly and often exclusively advertised in spam).

The attempt to conflate filtering traffic based on a desire for increased revenue and filtering traffic as a direct result of abuse is absurd. One is a valuable service to the customer. One is a self-serving abuse of the customer.

Re:The ISPs should lose their 'common carrier' sta (1)

Dan Slotman (974474) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430515)

I don't agree with your allegation. The article is certainly long, and it covers a lot of points, but it is distinctly about Net Neutrality except where it gets distracted condemning the people behind MAPS. Here is an executive summary. Most of it is direct quotations, but I did a little editing for clarity and conciseness.

This issue started with the Realtime Blackhole List (RBL), a blacklist for spammers, which was started by a group called the Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS).

Most ISPs using the RBL used it to filter only incoming e-mail, but AboveNet blocked RBL'ed web sites as well. It turned out that the RBL not only included spammers, but also Web sites that were not sending mail at all but were blocked because of their content -- in our case, our ISP got blocked because some other customers were selling mailing list software that MAPS believed could be too easily abused by spammers. The most controversial feature of the RBL is that if an ISP didn't comply, MAPS would start blacklisting other unrelated sites at the same ISP to put more pressure on them.

This example illustrates two points that go to the heart of what Net Neutrality is, and isn't, about. (1) The difference between blocking incoming spam and blocking Web sites, and (2) the difference between blocking traffic due to spam activity and blocking sites because of content. Net Neutrality is about putting the preferences of the user first; a user should be allowed to visit a website but should also be protected from spam.

But by far the most common objection to my complaint about AboveNet blocking Web sites was, "Hey, if a private company blocks things, as long as they're being honest to their users about it, who cares?" If you're tempted to argue that backbone providers should be allowed to block whatever they want as long as they put it in their AUP, just consider: When you access Google from your home computer, have you read the AUP of every network that the packets pass through, to check whether they reserve the right to block or even modify your traffic? Do you really want the burden to be on you to check with all of them every time there's a problem reaching a Web site? Or do you feel like there's an understanding that as long as you pay your bill, they should let you go wherever you want? [Edit: This is a slippery slope argument, but I'm including it since the point is pretty obvious.]

The modern-day threats to Net Neutrality are different: slowing access to Web sites unless the site owners pay a "toll", instead of blocking access to sites because of the content of other sites hosted at the same ISP. But they both boil down to the same thing: not giving end users what they have already paid for. [Edit: At this point there is a simple review of net neutrality. Read the 10th paragraph and blockquote if you are interested.]

[Edit: A lengthy discussion of where the MAPS people are now and all the (negative) stuff they are saying about Net Neutrality.]

Any informed debate about Net Neutrality has to include the fact that some providers have blocked Web sites on purpose, for long periods of time, and that the free market didn't fix it by itself. Even if something on the scale of outright blocking never happens again, it is wishful thinking to think that the free market and anti-trust laws will prevent ISPs from merely slowing down Web access to sites that haven't paid a "toll".

Re:The ISPs should lose their 'common carrier' sta (4, Informative)

Skreems (598317) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430689)

This is absolutely false. Blocking spam from compromised domains, absolutely. I agree with you 100% that blocking those emails is a service to the consumer, and so does the author. But blocking the user from navigating to a website in that IP block, an action which they have explicitly initiated, is another thing entirely. The ISP is selling the user a service (we will connect your browser to the internet), and then breaking it without even telling the user. The motive behind double billing is slightly different, but the execution is the same: sell the user a service, and then break the service you've promised. Only in the new case, they're trying to extort money from 3rd parties in exchange for un-breaking the service again.

Re:The ISPs should lose their 'common carrier' sta (3, Informative)

Secrity (742221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430653)

ISPs do NOT not have Common Carrier status -- and don't want it.

Re:The ISPs should lose their 'common carrier' sta (1)

fatboy (6851) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430949)

ISPs are not and never have been "common carriers". Common carriers may be ISPs, but not always.

People expect too much (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18429847)

It is not a "right" to access anything you want on the web. The ISPs should be free to decide what and what not they are allowed to show you. If you don't like it, change ISPs.

Instead, you all want to freeload, accessing what you want as if the companies owed you the internet or something.

It is ridiculous (5, Funny)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429923)

Seriously, the way people complain about being blocked or having their bandwidth thottled, you'd think they were paying money for their internet connection or something.

Re:It is ridiculous (1)

vierpsyche (1078467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431281)

I know for sure that the cable company in MA where I live throttles connections between users on the same cable system. Users can't have full bandwidth if they share the same cable provider. This is justified by the cable company as ensuring the bandwidth for the many. Of course, if I pay more then this throttling goes away. Just corporate American squeezing everything they can from the consumer. They give you a nice smile as the knife is placed strategically in your back.

Re:People expect too much (2, Insightful)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429997)

True, up until the point where they get in with the State

State says: "We won't prosecute you for technically transmissing pirated movies, illegal pornography, and bomb recipies, because we realize the internet is a good thing. If someone finds these things, just get rid of them best you can."

Now the government is involved in the relationship, and allowing ISPs to restrict speech (by refusing to carry it) is essentially government-approved censorship. That is No.

Your argument almost makes sense (1)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430603)

The State really says "We won't stop you from transmitting pirated movies, illegal pornography, and bomb recipies, we'll just prosecute you when you do." It's similar to how libel/slander are illegal- they can't stop you from talking, but that can sue you and take away your home if you say the wrong things about the wrong people (and don't have evidence to back yourself up).

You make an interesting point that the ISPs are in bed with the government, and thus if they engaged in censorship it would almost be like the government doing the censoring. I don't think I've seen anyone approach the issue like that before, and I don't think it would hold up in court (unless they somehow show that the government was behind it).

Your ideas are entertaining, all they lack is understanding of the issues and factual support. There are plenty of logical arguments in favor of Net Neutrality- perhaps you could find some, or modify your argument to make sense. Try "ISPs could become a hidden means of government censorship!" or "People should be able to talk about whatever they want in any medium". These ideas are similar to yours, but are supported by available evidence. Try them out!

Re:People expect too much (2, Informative)

lostatredrock (972881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430297)

Except the change ISPs argument holds no water. My entire state has one choice for good broadband, the local cable company that's it. Hopefully that will be changing soon, but for the time being I have no other options besides giving up and switching to dial-up.

The argument that capitalism will naturally correct any injustices the providers for upon users has to concede that for the vast majority of users in the United States there is no vibrant broadband market. This situation can change, but the cost implementing a high speed network over a huge geographic area is high and the only people who look like they are expanding this market are the ones already in it.

Re:People expect too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430835)

Satellite.

It even holds the promise (eventually) of being international.

Although I'm not sure a Chinese satellite Internet service would be much of an improvement.

AC

Re:People expect too much (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430957)

Satellite has lag issues that can't be overcome, period.

People Expect to Get What They Pay For. (4, Insightful)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430567)

>It is not a "right" to access anything you want on the web.

True enough. However, if I pay for "internet access" I expect to get "to access anything you want on the web." If it is clearly disclosed that Brand X ISP gives me access to the internet "except for websites that our CEO and his pastor think are bad for you," I'll make a decision based on that. They don't get to sell one thing and provide another.

But ISPs should announce blocking before signup (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430757)

After all, the customer pays for the access. If a provider sells "internet access" without making clear that they might block content on a whim, by all means whack them for fraud.

Now try to sell internet access while writing in your advertisments that it is only limited access. Good luck ;-)

Re:People expect too much (1)

chaoticgeek (874438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431017)

Except that when I live in the middle of nowhere and there is only dial up and cable if I want broadband I have to choose the one and only company out here. Plus the fact that from the article it appears as if the companies did not come out and say "Hey all these sites are blocked." Now if an ISP wants block content based on the fact that it is illegal or it is spam I can kinda see why that would be nice. But they should have to come out and tell you everything they are blocking so I can argue about it if something on that list is not what it appears to be. Espically the spam part because there are some sites that are considered spam and people may still use them. Like the freaking weather bug... I hate that thing but my grandparents and my parents have to have it for some reason... Many people would consider it spyware but not some... Its a very touchy subject, but when I drop pay that bill I should also be getting what they promised to me. If they say I will have 2megs up and down then I should have that and when I get throttled back because I go over one meg I will complain because they told me two megs not one and I should be charged less for that. Now if they throttle me because I go over two so that I only use two megs then that is fine.

I like the part on peacefire... (1, Funny)

rthille (8526) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429891)

Where the candidate in the 2000 election was infavor of blocking software until they found out it blocked _their_ site.

Are they just stupid or what?

Re:I like the part on peacefire... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430071)

Thanks for using the correct tense, "blocked". Unlike a certain headline, which seems to inidicate that RIGHT NOW some ISPs in Virginia are ACTIVELY BLOCKING certain websites.

This is a -followup- to news for nerds from SIX YEARS AGO. It is a very relevant tie-in to the Net Neutrality debate, and therefore stuff that matters.

To lampoon two bad Slashtrends at once: Is this kind of sensational headline really necessary?

No, just learning (2, Interesting)

paladinwannabe2 (889776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430261)

People believe all sorts of stupid things, but most people will learn from their mistakes once it starts hurting them. For instance, blocking software that prevents kids from accessing drug sites, hate sites, and sex sites is good, right?

For people who don't understand technology, it's not obvious that it's hard (for software) to tell the difference between a sex chat site and a breast cancer awareness site, a drug-awareness site and a drug dealer's site, and the KKK's speech with a history of the civil war. Not to mention that something like 'hate speech' is almost entirely subjective, and almost always ends up blocking all sorts of views.

You shouldn't be making fun of the politician, he made a mistake, and is learning from his error. He understands technology and censorship better than he used to, and is now on our side of the fence. If only more people in the position to make laws were hurt by them more often.

Re:No, just learning (2, Interesting)

rthille (8526) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431363)

Silly me, I sort of figured that one should educate themselves on a subject _before_ they take a stance on it.

Translation... (-1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429903)

Translation: MAPS put a persistent spammer's machines in the RBL. AboveNet and Teleglobe black-hole things in the RBL at the router level. Spammer doesn't like this.

Spammer's fallacy: that network neutrality includes the idea that networks cannot act to limit abuse of their resources. Sorry, but that's wrong. Network neutrality means ISPs aren't allowed to filter based on the source or destination of the traffic. The filter here isn't based on source or destination, just on volume. Analogy: UPS charges everyone the same rates and takes anyone's packages, but they won't take any packages weighing more than 1000lbs. When the spammer shows up with a 10,000lb package and UPS refuses it, they aren't refusing it because it's from the spammer, they're refusing it because it's over-weight. The spammer may not like it that UPS is applying the same rules to him as to everyone else, but that doesn't mean that UPS is giving him special (disadvantageous) treatment.

Re:Translation... (3, Insightful)

jamie (78724) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430055)

Did you read as far as the 5th word in the title?

Blocking websites is what is under discussion here. Not spam.

Can you explain how a web host can abuse your network's resources by quietly sitting around until a HTTP request is sent to it, and then responding with a webpage?

Re:Translation... (1)

shabble (90296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430057)

Translation: MAPS put a persistent spammer's machines in the RBL. AboveNet and Teleglobe black-hole things in the RBL at the router level. Spammer doesn't like this.
I got the impression, FTA, that MAPS put a site that provided "spamware" (whatever that is - mailing list softwarre?) on the RBL list, and Abovenet were blocking user access to websites matching the RBL.

This had nothing to do with blocking incoming mail from those IP's, but silently blocking user's outgoing requests to those IP's - something totally different.

Re:Translation... (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430093)

Translation: MAPS put a persistent spammer's machines in the RBL. AboveNet and Teleglobe black-hole things in the RBL at the router level. Spammer doesn't like this.

Okay, I give in. I've read the article twice and I can't see what part you are referring to. Please explain.

TWW

Re:Translation... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430223)

Okay, I give in. I've read the article twice and I can't see what part you are referring to. Please explain.

You've had time to read this twice already?!?!?!

Re:Translation... (3, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430113)

MAPS put a persistent spammer's machines in the RBL. AboveNet and Teleglobe black-hole things in the RBL at the router level. Spammer doesn't like this.

If by "spammer" you mean "Website operator who runs a Web site that sells software including e-mail software that could be abused to send spam.

Network neutrality means ISPs aren't allowed to filter based on the source or destination of the traffic. The filter here isn't based on source or destination, just on volume.

This is incorrect. They were blocking a list of source/destination addresses, not just any IP that sent too much data. Also, they were blocking particular sites that were not sending e-mail at all, just offering particular software for sale that the list maintainers did not like. Net neutrality certainly would make that illegal.

Analogy: UPS charges everyone the same rates and takes anyone's packages, but they won't take any packages weighing more than 1000lbs. When the spammer shows up with a 10,000lb package and UPS refuses it, they aren't refusing it because it's from the spammer, they're refusing it because it's over-weight.

Your analogy is wrong though. They aren't stopping this package because it weighs 10,000lb. It is only 2lbs and contains marketing brochures for a crate company. They are stopping it because they have a list of people and this person happens to sell large crates that could be used to try to ship large items.

Re:Translation... (-1, Flamebait)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430265)

OK, I appear to have mis-read. It's not the spammer complaining, it's someone who supports spammers.

Yes, I stand by that. peacefire.org is hosted at a provider that also hosts a fair number of spammers. The owner's been complaining about this for a long time. He knows what kind of people he's standing with. He declines to move. Those spammers are blocked by the RBL, which means all sites on the same machines are blocked. Including peacefire.org.

Which means it still has nothing to do with network neutrality. The blocks are still based on abuse of the network, and I still see nowhere where network neutrality requires putting up with abuse of the network.

Re:Translation... (1)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430429)

Except that the RBL only put the networks on the list because of web content. As far as I have been able to tell, not one spam has been reported from that network.

The content in question was software that could be used by spammers (and in all honesty, was probably only used by spammers, just like Napster (to bring in a contemporary issue that drove up /.'s page views back then...) was largely used to pirate music), not spamming itself.

The connection with net neutrality is tenuous, at best.

Re:Translation... (2, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430579)

OK, I appear to have mis-read

Appear to?

No spam was sent from that network. Another company was using a website in that network to sell mailing list software (that may have never been used for spam, it's a little late now to find out whether they were advertising it as a tool for spammers or as a tool for companies to communicate with all of their employees easily).

The network was never abused by that network. The site was blocked because the owners assumed the worst and were offended by their assumption.

Re:Translation... (2, Insightful)

manifoldronin (827401) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430701)

Yes, I stand by that. peacefire.org is hosted at a provider that also hosts a fair number of spammers. The owner's been complaining about this for a long time. He knows what kind of people he's standing with. He declines to move. Those spammers are blocked by the RBL, which means all sites on the same machines are blocked. Including peacefire.org.
If school buses refuse to go through anywhere in your neighborhood because one of your neighbors is a registered offender, would you move somewhere else or would you complain against the school bus system?

Re:Translation... (2, Insightful)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430289)

You either do not know what you're talking about or you're a demagogue deliberately distorting things.

Given your UID, you were around /. in the autumn of '00 when this was a hot story. I'll place my bets on the latter.

The filter here isn't based on source or destination, just on volume.

The MAPS RBL, as used by AboveNet and Teleglobe was implemented at the IP routing level. Any packets to networks listed on the RBL, regardless of protocol, were blackholed, based on the source/destination IP address.

Analogy: UPS charges everyone the same rates and takes anyone's packages, but they won't take any packages weighing more than 1000lbs. When the spammer shows up with a 10,000lb package and UPS refuses it, they aren't refusing it because it's from the spammer, they're refusing it because it's over-weight.

That analogy has nothing to do with the AboveNet/Teleglobe affair. Nothing whatsoever.

Here's the analogy: due to a plethora of overweight packages from a ZIP/post-code (or whole city, or a whole county, or a whole state/province, or a whole country, or a whole continent... a netblock could be anything from a /31 to a /1), UPS elects to incinerate any packages sent from or to that ZIP/post-code, etc.

Re:Translation... (1)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430485)

Addendum: even my analogy is inaccurate.

Instead of the "plethora of overweight packages..." replace with "a publisher of a guide to sending overweight packages through UPS resides within...".

Re:Translation... (1)

manifoldronin (827401) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430411)

I don't think your analogy is logically appropriate. Filtering spam ends up being source based, not because it should be done that way or anybody wants it to be done that way, but because filtering based on volume isn't possible in most of the cases. In the UPS scenario, as soon as the 10000lbs package walks in, the UPS guys can see right away it's more than what they can handle. On the other hand, nobody can possibly know or assume that a spammer is spamming for the first 10 emails sent. One would have to have observed, say, 10000 emails sent within a short period of time, to realize that he's being spammed. In other words, pure volume-based observation (and in turn any defense) can only be after the fact as far as email spamming goes.

A better analogy would be if someone manages to keep showing up at UPS for 100 times in a day, every time trying to send a 1lb package, and keep doing that for a month. What would happen is the UPS guys would take good care of him for the first couple of days like they would any other customers, but after a week they'd start ignoring him, and after two weeks they'd be calling the cops anytime he walks in. 8-)

Huh? How does Virginia factor into this? (1)

g051051 (71145) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429925)

Are AboveNet and TeleGlobe headquartered in Virginia? Because there doesn't seem to be any mention of Virigina in the article other than in passing, and not even in reference to the state or it's ISPs.

Re:Huh? How does Virginia factor into this? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430079)

Are AboveNet and TeleGlobe headquartered in Virginia? Because there doesn't seem to be any mention of Virigina in the article other than in passing, and not even in reference to the state or it's ISPs.

TFA: So, yes, Virginia, blocking of Web sites does happen -- and by "Virginia", I mean FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, who said in a speech in August 2006...

Well, we know Taco doesn't have very good reading comprehension skills, but this is just sad...

Re:Huh? How does Virginia factor into this? (1)

Zephyros (966835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430193)

Does this [wikipedia.org] help refresh your memory?

Re:Huh? How does Virginia factor into this? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430251)

Yes, we get that. But Taco has taken that and turned it on its head to say that this is actively happening in the state of Virginia, which is flat-out wrong. This is precisely the type of thing that EDITORS remove from writing, not add in.

Freedom for me, none for you (-1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429967)

Let me summarize this:

Freedom for ME, none for YOU. Especially if YOU are an ISP.

Nevermind the unintended consequences either.

Re:Freedom for me, none for you (1)

slackmaster2000 (820067) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430389)

Are you arguing the freedom of the oppressor?

"But what about my freedom to become a dictator!?"

Re:Freedom for me, none for you (2, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430705)

Freedom for ME, none for YOU. Especially if YOU are an ISP.

Well, if you're an ISP and built your network using money the government gave you which they took from me under threat of prison time, I'd say I ethically should have some say in how my money is used. Also, if the government is granting you special exceptions from laws that restrict my actions, under the claim that it is because you're providing a public good, well maybe you should be held accountable when your actions are demonstrably not in the public good in that particular way.

Re:Freedom for me, none for you (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430963)

Well, if you're an ISP and built your network using money the government gave you which they took from me under threat of prison time, I'd say I ethically should have some say in how my money is used. Also, if the government is granting you special exceptions from laws that restrict my actions, under the claim that it is because you're providing a public good, well maybe you should be held accountable when your actions are demonstrably not in the public good in that particular way.
It sounds good, but the problem then becomes: how do you define what is a public good? And who gets the last say in this definition, and why?

Re:Freedom for me, none for you (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431121)

It sounds good, but the problem then becomes: how do you define what is a public good? And who gets the last say in this definition, and why?

The people of course, and not just a simple majority. We have a constitution and bill of rights for a reason. More specifically, you need only hold the ISPs to a standard of impartiality such as would be expected of any contractor working on behalf of the taxpayer. The government has already stepped in supposedly on behalf of the people and taken our money and built networks which were then given away. It has granted geographical monopolies to certain companies. It has granted certain companies immunity from the law in exchange for acting as impartial common carriers. It makes sense to me that we actually hold them to that standard to act impartially or rescind their immunity, don't you think?

So Which Is It? (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18429977)

So which is it. An article of general interest, or a rant because some ISP doesn't like your web-site? While I believe in net neutrality in the pure sense, and not the sense when used at the title of a bill that attempts just the opposite, I also like truth in labeling and the use of proper [rant]...[/rant] tags.

Flip-flop = Evil?!? (4, Informative)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430843)

Even worse, it's a rant about something that happened 7 years ago. And he's still holding a hand full of people accountable for something a corporation did back then.

Why do people get stuck on this whole 'not changing their minds' crap. It's like if you are a war backer, then go to war, come home and say "Ya know, war isn't so grand." You get labeled as a 'flip-flopper' and discredited. At some point along the way it became a social evil to learn from your mistakes and change your mind.

So some board wrote a policy 7 years ago that pissed this guy off, and since then, some of the members of that board have been working on steps that are at odds with that policy. Does it have to be irony? Or could it just be that over the last 7 years their understanding of the Internet and the related social-economic impacts has grown and they have changed their minds?

-Rick

500 word summary, courtesy of Microsoft Word (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430003)

Put all that blithering into Microsoft Word 97, clicked on Tools->AutoSummarize, and got this 500 word summary:

Maybe I'm biased, since one of the Web sites being blocked was mine. Which begs the question: If they really believe that backbone companies have the right to silently block Web sites, are some of them headed for a rift with Net Neutrality supporters?"

In the aforementioned instance, AboveNet and TeleGlobe were not selling "parental filters" or other common types of filtered Internet access; the users being blocked from our Web sites were adults paying for what they thought were unfiltered Internet connections. If an ISP filters incoming mail from known spammers, that generally improves the user experience, and is something many users would expect an ISP to do anyway. Similarly, if an ISP blocks traffic from sites because of spam or other network abuse, that serves to protect their own users. But if an ISP blocks users from viewing sites because of their content, that's generally not expected by users, unless they've specifically signed up for something like a parental controls. Well, true, but the fact that AboveNet blocked Web sites was not widely known even within the company; when I once called AboveNet feigning ignorance and asking them if they blocked RBL'ed Web sites, the technician who spoke to me said, "No, that wouldn't make any sense." Some have argued that if an ISP blocks the user from reaching a Web site, then even if the ISP is defrauding the user, that's still strictly an issue between the user and the ISP. The modern-day threats to Net Neutrality are different: slowing access to Web sites unless the site owners pay a "toll", instead of blocking access to sites because of the content of other sites hosted at the same ISP. If a user buys Internet access, they almost always buy it with the understanding that if they access a site, the content will download as quickly as their connection allows.

There is a clear line between following user preferences by blocking spam, and countermanding user preferences by blocking sites because of their content -- and once you've crossed that line, where's the logical stopping point? It was MAPS's decision, not ours or our ISP's, to have our site blocked. I tried to track down the influential people who had spoken out supporting AboveNet's blocking of Web sites, or at least their right to block Web sites. INTERNET NEUTRALITY

Second, there's network neutrality. In Internet service, the government mandates nothing. Although, he didn't get to making any such frank statements during the controversy over AboveNet's Web site blocking. Internet service providers have voluntarily upheld content-neutral practices without the need for government intervention, and consumers would never stand for blocked Web sites...

Re:500 word summary, MOD PARENT UP +2 AS FOLLOWS (2, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430271)

Mod parent up:
CONCISE +1
PITHY +1.

Content is content, regardless of protocol (3, Interesting)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430051)

If it's proper for an ISP to block email that has questionable or unwanted content (eg, spam), why is it not proper for that same ISP to block Websites that also have questionable or unwanted content (eg, phishing sites)? Just because AboveNet and TeleGlobe, or more accurately MAPS, went overboard and blacklisted innocent sites, doesn't mean the principle is invalid.

The real issue here isn't that ISPs were blocking access to Websites, it's that the reputation service they were using to judge which sites should be blocked used questionable methods to determine eligibility for blocking. Given my experience with Spamhaus in fighting spam, I would have no problem if my ISP used them to block access to possible phishing or scam sites, in addition to combating spam.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (1)

shabble (90296) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430119)

If it's proper for an ISP to block email that has questionable or unwanted content (eg, spam), why is it not proper for that same ISP to block Websites that also have questionable or unwanted content
Because in the former, the initial requests/data originate from sources outside their control, and in the latter it is their own users instigating the requests.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (4, Insightful)

CXI (46706) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430255)

If it's proper for an ISP to block email that has questionable or unwanted content (eg, spam), why is it not proper for that same ISP to block Websites that also have questionable or unwanted content (eg, phishing sites)?

If those website were spewing http requests at my browser without having been asked to do so, your comment would make sense. However that's not how it works. Website do not take up my bandwidth, storage, resources or time without an explicit request on my part for a reply. It is an entirely different situation. If you moved this into the area of spam sites that flood your screen with unrequested popups, then you might have a point. For the majority of websites, however, that does not apply.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431127)

If those website were spewing http requests at my browser without having been asked to do so, your comment would make sense.

So you think it would be wrong for an ISP to block phishing sites that are designed to look like, say, Bank of America and dupe unsuspecting customers into disclosing account information? I'm not saying ISPs should be saddled with an affirmative duty to block those sites, but if they chose to I can't see any reasonable person complaining about it.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (2, Insightful)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430257)

Most email providers just put the spam in a separate junk folder, allowing the user to decide whether to delete it all or check first to make sure something important accidentally got placed there. I wouldn't have a problem with ISPs doing something similar with websites that may be scams/phishing. If some warning popped up that required me to click to continue (along with saving my choice for the future) I might consider it a useful feature depending on how accurate it was at spotting scams/phishing.

I would not like the ISP to just block a site outright with little to no way of getting around it. I wouldn't like my junk mail deleted automatically either.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430305)

The issue here, which the author of the post clearly stated, is one of USER CHOICE. It is not your choice to receive spam emails, and so the ISP can be perfectly justified in blocking their users from receiving spam emails. But if I choose to go to www.IAmAGiganticSpammer.com the ISP has no right to block my access to that site. Perhaps, as the author of the original post points out, I am going to that site for a legitimate reason.

Hear! Hear! (2, Interesting)

winkydink (650484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430315)

Malicious content on the internet has grown exponentially since criminals figured out how to make money using the internet.

There's a line here. Most people would say that ISP's blocking spam is a good thing. OK, what about blocking access to web sites that contain known malicious code? How about known phishing sites, should these be blocked? Or botnet C&C's?

Again, since most people will accept that some line exists over what should and should not be blocked, then the argument comes down to where to draw that line. Short of legislation regulating where the line is drawn (we all know how well that's worked... not), people will argue, some quite vocally, over where to draw that line (actually they will do it even it it is legislated). Some will say it's not enough, some will say too much, some will say it's just right or not care.

It sounds like the author has a serious axe to grind and I'm a little disappointed he was given the space to do it here. When the author uses a large forum like Slashdot, the author should be factual, (e.g., Paul Vixie was never on the Abovenet Board of Directors. He was in senior management, but that's an important distinction. Research it if you wish).

When I see misrepresentations that I know about, then it makes me wonder how much else is being misrepresented in the article.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (1)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430333)

I should add that I have an option of choosing an email provider that doesn't block any emails or put them in junk folders. In some areas there isn't really many/any options for ISPs.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (1)

manifoldronin (827401) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430571)

If it's proper for an ISP to block email that has questionable or unwanted content (eg, spam), why is it not proper for that same ISP to block Websites that also have questionable or unwanted content (eg, phishing sites)?
Because email and web site are two entirely different animals as far as the accessing paradigm is concerned? It's proper for an ISP to block email spams because they consume the ISP's resources and they come from someone who didn't pay for the consumption and those who paid to consume don't have a chance to say they don't want it.

On the other hand, the content of a web site cannot flow through an ISP's network without a paying customer having chosen so consciously.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (1)

morsdeus (1059938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431145)

The problem with this is one of explicit user consent. Email is sent to your mailserver and shows up in your account without your foreknowledge of what you're getting; it's an essential feature of any message-based communication service.

Websites, on the other hand, must be deliberately navigated to with some degree of foreknowledge of where you're going. There's a fundamental discontinuity between blocking packets the user did not solicit and will not want in his or her inbox, and preventing a user from navigating to a site as they freely and knowingly choose, using a navigation service they pay you to provide full, unfiltered access to.

Spammers don't pay you to give them access to someone else's server; customers do.

Re:Content is content, regardless of protocol (1)

DRJlaw (946416) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431159)

I would have no problem if my ISP used them to block access to possible phishing or scam sites, in addition to combating spam.

Nice for you. I would have a problem if my ISP used them to block access to a site that I wanted to reach, including phishing or scam sites, in addition to combating spam. Why are you so willing to throw my expectation that I can browse a site that I explicitly want to browse under the proverbial bus?

If it's proper for an ISP to block email that has questionable or unwanted content (eg, spam), why is it not proper for that same ISP to block Websites that also have questionable or unwanted content (eg, phishing sites)?

Presumptively, the former is content that I did not request. Presumptively, the latter is content that I did request. Are you happy when email that you're expecting to receive is silently sent to /dev/null as a false positive by a spam filter that you do not control?

Just because AboveNet and TeleGlobe, or more accurately MAPS, went overboard and blacklisted innocent sites, doesn't mean the principle is invalid.

True. It is invalid because of a failure of imagination. I may have a legitimate need to view a scam site. I may represent a client who was scammed by the site and want to gather evidence on their behalf for a criminal complaint. I may be hired by someone co-hosted on the same server to prepare and file a civil complaint. Your problem can be solved with software installed on your computer. My problem cannot be solved by permitting content-based blocking of actively sought content that is controlled by others. Others may have other legitimate needs. The practice is not valid simply because it does not affect your limited use of the resource.

OMG, Wall of Text! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430059)

Executive summary, please.

Please quit abusing 'beg the question' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430109)

Look it up.

"Begging" the question? (5, Insightful)

asninn (1071320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430175)

Which begs the question: If they really believe that backbone companies have the right to silently block Web sites, are some of them headed for a rift with Net Neutrality supporters?

Please, do look up the difference between "begging the question" and "raising a/the question".

Also, the headline ("Virginia ISPs silently blocking websites") is so misleading I'm really having trouble applying Hanlon's razor here - either CmdrTaco needs to learn how to read (i.e., do more than just glance over the first paragraph in an attempt to find certain trigger words that'd likely get an emotional response from the Slashdot crowd), or he needs to develop some ethics of his own. This site is not supposed to be more than a tech-oriented, (mostly) liberal version of FOX "news", after all (or at least that's what I think).

(And the fact that it's the site's head honcho who posted this story with this headline instead of one of his subordinate drones just makes it even sadder.)

Re:"Begging" the question? (1)

lahvak (69490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431049)

Maybe it wasn't exactly CmdrTaco's fault. The piece is so badly written that it's almost unreadable. Aforementioned my ass! I wouldn't blame CmdrTaco for using totally misleading headline, I blame him for simply posting this crap at all!

Re:"Begging" the question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18431177)

How is it misleading?

Parent should be modded down as troll.

Re:"Begging" the question? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18431443)

How is it misleading?

If you really need to ask, you haven't even bothered trying to read the article. This whole thing has nothing to do with Virginia. The two ISPs mentioned are located in New York and the Bahamas, respectively. What's even worse is that dipshit Taco still hasn't corrected this after several hours.

What we have is a failure to communicate here (0, Flamebait)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430183)

The poster seems to have a misunderstanding of the concept of Free Speech. Free Speech means you're allowed to say what you want -- with minor limitations regarding libel and shouting "Fire" in inappropriate places -- without fear of punishment. It does not mean that others are requried to carry your speech regardless. Looks to me like they're telling your ISP to clean up its act and get off the list. If you've got a bad ISP you should move to a new one who doesn't offend Internet society so badly. That's the free market. Instead you complain and demand everything be made right by your standards, instead of anyone else's. Typical liberal clap-trap. If you think there's a demand for a better form of ISP that doesn't do all these terrible things, why don't you go out and start one yourself?

Oh, wait. That would be real work.

Oh, btw, preventing users from researching spammers and their resources is in both the ISP's, and the Internet's best interests. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out why.

Lastly, anyone who wants to visit your site that badly is likely going through a proxy, or using ToR already anyway.

Re:What we have is a failure to communicate here (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430383)

s/spammers/democracy. Welcome to China. This is the same thing as that horrid "if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about comrade" mentality these days. Yes...we can pretty much all agree spammers are bad, that kiddie porn is wrong, that goatse shouldn't be allowed to exist, however, once you establish that it is ok to block these things at a high level without notice it just becomes a matter of determining what is 'offensive' enough to make the list. Well to China democracy is rather offensive. To the Bush crew pretty much everything that isn't in line with their fear the boogeyman crap is offensive. To the religious right wing evolution is offensive. To the left wing guns are offensive. We have already established that its ok to block things that some arbitrary group has decided 'would be better for everyone', now you just have to trust that that group will never decide certain things are offensive.

One day lecturing about the constitution could be considered insighting revolts and off ya go, all your information blocked from the world as you rot in a dark cell.

Re:What we have is a failure to communicate here (1)

Guuge (719028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430443)

The entire lengthy submission doesn't mention "free speech" even once. Maybe you should at least read it before you critique.

Oh, wait. That would be real work.

Re:What we have is a failure to communicate here (1)

Random BedHead Ed (602081) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430495)

If you've got a bad ISP you should move to a new one who doesn't offend Internet society so badly. That's the free market.

You seem to have reached into your libertarian box for some boilerplate text, found something that doesn't apply well to this article and tossed it into a comment. Congratulations. While I'd agree that the markets are amazing things, they are not as infallible as some might delude themselves to believe. Most free market arguments break down with very little scrutiny, as yours does. How well regulation or deregulation works really depends on the industry and the circumstances.

In this case the market for Internet service isn't free. In most areas there is little competition, often only one broadband choice. Of course I'm talking about the market in the United States, where a lack of competition has prevented the sorts of better ISP services that exist in other countries - like in Great Britain, where I have the choice of a few in my area. Even where there is some limited competition in the US, a problem like the one the poster describes requires a technically savvy person to identify it, so the average person won't migrate to a second ISP even if there is one, and given the lack of competition it is likely enough that any alternative ISP will behave in the same way. Unfortunately regulation is the only thing that will prevent this.

I know what you're going to say. Regulation is wrong, and will stifle the industry. Well, other countries regulate their ISPs successfully, yet still have better ones than the US does, as well as better coverage. Go figure.

Free Speech? (1)

Evil W1zard (832703) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431267)

Since this article is talking about what ISPS do in the US... Violation of Free Speech in terms of the US Constitution only applies to government regulated speech. This is an ISP blocking valid websites and thus it is not a violation of your first amendment right to freedom of speech.

This is merely a company providing a service and that service is degraded...

In soviet America... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430203)

...people get warm fuzzy feelings by looking down on China.

Ye Gawds! (4, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430215)

He had me right up until "But there was also an oft-forgotten episode in 2000 ... Maybe I'm biased, since one of the Web sites being blocked was mine [CC].

Ok, when your argument begins with an 7 year old gripe about actions that were directed at you, any suggestion of objectivity goes right out the door.

Really, this is blog fodder, not something that should be posted unedited on the Slashdot front page.

Re:Ye Gawds! (3, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430605)

Ok, when your argument begins with an 7 year old gripe about actions that were directed at you, any suggestion of objectivity goes right out the door.

You don't have to be objective to be correct or even to present a useful example as to why some change is needed.

Re:Ye Gawds! (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430759)

Well...
Net neutrality is really a 7+ years old gripe.
A vastly different gripe.
In fact it is 9+ year old gripe.

Prior to the dot bomb boom providers commonly charged and offered different rates/SLAs/etc based on traffic source/destination especially outside the US. Essentially the Net was NOT neutral. In fact it still is not neutral in many places outside the US. The dot bomb replaced this mostly realistic economic model with a whole lot rabid dreams. The differential charging, usage charging and per-destination SLA concepts went away due to marketing pressures to be replaced by various versions of "All you can eat". As a result providers currently operate on a cost and charging model which is not anchored in reality.

Traffic is not created equal and it does not cost the same amount of money to deliver it to next door, to a node in the same geographical area and to a node across the globe. From there there will be a strong economical pressure for the net return to its initial non-neutral state. It was not created neutral in the first place, it is not neutral in most of the world and it will not be neutral even in the US sooner or later.

Re:Ye Gawds! (2, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431019)

1.

Ok, when your argument begins with an 7 year old gripe about actions that were directed at you, any suggestion of objectivity goes right out the door.
Find, start with that bias. The author admitted it, so it is quite fair of you to take that into account. But the arguments that follow provide clear examples, links to relevant research and articles, and clear non-emotional arguments. The author earned that objectivity back IMHO.

2.

Really, this is blog fodder, not something that should be posted unedited on the Slashdot front page.
Yes, it is blog fodder, but Slashdot is a news/blog aggregator. I found this insightful and good information for the next time a Net Neutrality discussion begins.

On a related note, I find it often unfair that someone's arguments are hand-waved away because they are somehow involved. When you do that, you throw away the arguments of the most experienced people on the subject. Of course they are involved, or they wouldn't know so much about it and have an opinion.

Mine Has Done It (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430331)

For a period of several weeks, my ISP was blocking Keenspot.com; at first I thought the site was just down, then I found out that I could reach it if I went through a proxy and used an alternative DNS server . When I called them to ask what was going on, the rep said that they had been DOS attacked from that IP and would not be unblocking it. A few hours after the phone call, though, the site was accessible again.

An attack from Keenspot, of all places, seems very, very unlikely, and I live in one of the most fundamentalist parts of the country, so I'm still a bit suspicious.

Whose ox got gored (1)

LorenzoV (106795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430371)

I think you either misunderstand the circumstance or are intentionally trying to mislead the readers.

Although I don't much care for AboveNet's own persistent spammers, the ones no amount of complaining will get killed, I cannot support your whine. Here's my thoughts on the subject.

AboveNet has elected to use an RBL like thingie to block all traffic to listed IP addresses.

Your IP address is among those addresses.
For whatever reasons, AboveNet thinks that the owners of those IP addresses are bad-guys, for some definition of bad-guys.

Your ISP, or did you mean hosting provider, is listed among the blocked IP addresses. Careful distinction here: your ISP (or hosting provider) is blocked, not your IP address specifically.

Some DNSbls block whole ranges of IP addresses belonging to an ISP (or really whoever owns the block) because those owners often move a pet spammer to evade blocking. Many network admins simply block the entire range. I block, and never less than a /24.

So, my suggestion to you is to get a new ISP or hosting provider. Quit whining and take action.

Re:Whose ox got gored (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430859)

For whatever reasons, AboveNet thinks that the owners of those IP addresses are bad-guys, for some definition of bad-guys. Your ISP, or did you mean hosting provider, is listed among the blocked IP addresses. Careful distinction here: your ISP (or hosting provider) is blocked, not your IP address specifically.

I feel your argument has fallen apart at this point. The ISP was blocked specifically because of the user's IP. The definition of "bad guy" was that they were providing a perfectly legal service and exercising free speech.

So, my suggestion to you is to get a new ISP or hosting provider. Quit whining and take action.

Sigh, way to miss the point. He can get whatever IP he wants, but if they consistently block whatever CIDR that is from all their customers, without those customers knowing it, then they have effectively prevented his message from reaching people, across networks funded with out tax dollars, because of blocking by a company that is specifically granted immunity to laws that would make them liable for publishing or transporting materials specifically under the auspices that they are simply impartial transmitters of data.

Do you understand the relationship between rights and power and responsibility? Either an ISP does not take responsibility for content and lets anyone communicate or they do take responsibility for content and exercise their right/power to stop content they don't like. They can't have it both ways. If they are going to filter the speech and business of someone they don't like, then when they don't filter the speech and business of child pornographer they should be held responsible for that as well and go to prison.

Confused (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430433)

So, does this mean my ISP is filtering Bennett Haseltons' website, or did it get Slashdotted ?

7 years from now... (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430539)

Today:
Maybe I'm biased, since one of the Web sites being blocked was mine.

Seven years from now:
Maybe I'm biased, since one of the Web sites being DOSed by Slashdot was mine.

Also, as a resident of Virginia, the article's title caused me unnecessary concern. Thanks a lot.

Dan East

Am I remembering correctly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430595)

The only story about peacefire.org being blocked that I can remember is when their ISP (not the tier 1 provider) decided move it to an IP that was already blocked for spamming in an effort to get the address space de-listed, that is, they were using peacefire.org as a "human shield", rather than concentrate on cleaning up their spammers. I don't remember the ISP involved at this time.

Is this the incident that is mentioned in the story? If so, some details were left out...

AT&T/Cingular Blocking Phones from VoIP Servic (4, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430673)

Meanwhile, AT&T/Cingular is blocking its cellular customers from calling into free conferencing services [arstechnica.com] that use VoIP for competing with AT&T/Cingular.

Network Neutrality: it's not just for the Internet. It's just one way we need to protect ourselves from the AT&T monopoly (or its duopoly with Verizon) that America worked so long and hard to obtain 20 years ago. Which AT&T has worked so long and hard since then to endrun, nearly back to its original market control, in a much larger market. A market that expanded only because of the divestiture.

AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18430897)

We're gonna come back around full circle to the way things were in the olden days of "online" computer communications and mega-BBS-like online service providers like AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy were back in their day before the web.

If you want to access Compuserve content, you had to buy a Compuserve account and dial up their system. If you wanted to access AOL content, you had to buy an AOL account and dial up their system, etc. It's going to become the same way again, except there'll be no dialing, it'll be broadband, but every broadband provider will privatize their realms and stop cooperating with other providers.

Full circle indeed.

Re:AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, etc (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431289)

The giant ISPs like AT&T are trying to carve out new "walled gardens" [google.com] like AOL.

Re:AT&T/Cingular Blocking Phones from VoIP Ser (1)

Software (179033) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431455)

Your link does not make it sound so cut-and-dry.

The 712 area code used by these services allow the local carriers to charge a number of subsidies to those carrying the incoming calls due to the location of the tiny, rural exchange. These fees are split between the local exchange and the "free" conference call company, which allows them to make a pretty penny. The fees for these calls made into 712 are higher than those charged by other exchanges, and AT&T/Cingular has in fact filed a lawsuit against these Iowa-based telcos for what Cingular claims are violation of a number of laws and FCC decisions. In the meantime, Cingular is not waiting on the outcome of the lawsuit to protect itself.
It sounds to me like the free conferencing services are using a loophole to force Cingular to pay extra to the local exchanges, then the conferencing services are taking a kickback from those exchanges.

Misguided ranting (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430697)

MAPS entire function was to filter the Internet according to their standards. If you failed to meet their standards, they wanted to block you. Totally. Any way that was within their power to do so. This is the entire function of an RBL. The fact that enterprising folks decided to extend this beyond email should be considered simply an extension of the power of an RBL. Anti-spammers are a rabid crowd with all the morals of a mob.


More meaningless ranting about ISP pricing. Unfortunately, I copied the paragraph below:

Which leads to the third misconception: "Here's the thing that the 3Ns (Net Neutrality Nuts) don't get: bandwidth costs money... So, if a net neutrality law passes, don't be surprised when your costs to have an Internet account skyrocket." But it's not about how much a service costs, but about the ethics of double-billing for it. We know that ISP pricing models can already support the total traffic that people consume today, and ISPs do already follow net neutrality principles most of the time, so nobody's costs will "skyrocket" just because a neutrality law passes. If vastly more people start trying to stream CNN over the Internet 24/7, and fully using the services that ISPs have "only been pretending to sell" as Brad Templeton put it, then ISPs may have to charge more for users who consume too much bandwidth, encouraging people to stay at today's average levels by rationing themselves and perhaps watching 24 on their $5,000 TV sets sometimes instead of downloading it off of BitTorrent to their laptop every week because it makes them feel like a haX0r. Much as we all love our unmetered connections, it wouldn't be a violation of Net Neutrality for ISPs to charge users for bandwidth hogging, to keep everyone from going too far above today's levels. What ISPs should not do is charge users for implied full-throttle connections, and then turn around to charge publishers for moving bits over those same lines, or block the connection for any other reason.


Sadly, this guy is living in a fantasy world where people pay for stuff they use and companies deliver what their advertising says they are selling. ISPs today do not generally have any sort of "metered" plan - they have the one-size-fits-all jumbo-mega plan. They may have a secret cap at which they turn your connection off, but there isn't a higher priced plan that you can pay extra for and get the cap removed. Oh, and did you notice that with the lower prices the supposed speeds keep increasing but the actual content delivery rate remains the same? Sure, your connection to the ISP is at the rate they advertise but your ability to use that stops at their 2nd or 3rd router.


You see, what you are paying for today is a plan with a very high bit rate but is qualified with the term "bursting". This means that you can get a lot of bits very quickly for a short period of time but not continuously. They don't have the network capacity to provide you 10-12 megabits continuously. At least not when your neighbor wants it also. The good news is that today there isn't much content out there that the average Joe is looking for that requires anything better than a burstable connection that averages quite a bit less than whatever they think they are paying for. But this is beginning to change.


Are you paying more than $15 a month for DSL? If so, you are getting ripped off. SBC/Yahoo has been advertising $15 a month rates for "new customers" for quite a while now. Cable prices have been falling as well - mostly in an attempt to keep building customer base. Nobody is paying a rate commesurate with what the service actually costs anymore. You are paying a rate which has been carefully worked out to provide an increasing customer base - greater market penetration - and will let them pay salaries of people hooking up new customers. New equipment? Increased throughput? Better external connections? Nope, no money for that.


We are going to see some interesting pricing models soon. Yes, maybe there will be a sudden increase in prices or ISPs will wake up and decide that instead of $15 a month they need to charge $50. Expect a vast shakeout of ISPs because the ones that are still charging $15 a month will survive and the ones with realistic pricing will be gone in an instant. Where are they going to get money to actually deliver non-bursting bandwidth when there is content for it? Who knows, but you can bet it will not be the customer directly. Sure, some will try. Others will tap the content provider. Some will also try to get the government to pay. In the end, the customer will certainly be paying, one way or another, either through connect fees, purchases or taxes.

I have to object to a quote in the article (1)

GuyverDH (232921) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430773)

Because somebody has to pay those bills, and if the law says that the ISPs can't charge the big guys - the big users - differently, it means that they have to charge them the same rate that they charge everyone else. And that means not that their rate will go down, but that everybody else's rate will go up.

Uhh - That bandwidth has already been paid for.

The content providers pay their ISPs for bandwidth in/out.
The users pay their ISPs for bandwidth in/out.
The ISPs pay the backbone providers for bandwidth in/out.

Adding any additional layers of charges onto this is double dipping, period - and should be treated as such.

The end-user who already pays for their bandwidth are the ones choosing to download from a site or content provider.

Should a content provider be asked to pay (again, for something that's already been paid for) just because one of it's users has asked for content to be pushed to them?

No.

That's just fucking greed on the part of the ISPs and backbone providers.

We reserve the right to refuse service to anybody (1)

scgops (598104) | more than 7 years ago | (#18430823)

Doesn't this long rant about evil, nefarious ISPs silently blocking web sites come down to a question of whether or not a business has the right to refuse service? This isn't a neutrality question, because the ISPs didn't give their customers the choice of paying an extra $5 per month to access content that would otherwise be blocked.

Let's take an egregious example. What would happen if a blacklist operator decided to flag all of UUnet's IP address space based on a high volume of spam complaints? And what if other ISPs then used the blacklist to blackhole all traffic from UUnet?

Anyone doing this could easily defend it as a cost-limiting move, aimed at decreasing the bandwidth costs of delivering spam. Meanwhile, UUnet and their customers wouldn't have a whole lot of legal grounds for complaint. It would be largely up to the downstream customers of the other ISPs to push their providers to lift the block or, if unsatisfied with the service they are provided, to move to another ISP.

This isn't entirely hypothetical. There are blacklists out there with UUnet's entire IP space. The mail servers I maintain are using UUnet-provided IP addresses, and we have had multiple cases over the years where companies using those blacklists couldn't communicate with us over email. It wouldn't take a big leap for the blacklists to be applied to web traffic, too, perhaps under the guise of providing additional anti-phishing protection.

I've done something similar myself, in regards to Korean IP address ranges. At the time, we had no customers in Korea. Eventually, though, someone in Korea did want to consider subscribing to our services, and my downstream customers, a.k.a. internal users, asked me to lift the block.

I don't see where AboveNet was doing anything unreasonable.

Depends who's service you mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18431133)

The ISP is selling service to you. If you want to go to a site and the ISP blocks you silently (or misleadingly) then they are refusing service to you, the customer.

But why? And if they do, can you, the customer, get a rebate for reduced service?

Now, if this fella was being blocked from sending IP requests out uninitiated and unwanted, then they are refusinging this fella service.

Is this what is happening? 'cos it reads to me like if I'd tried to access his site, I wouldn't be allowed to get there. Even if it were KP, this should not happen. Report me for looking at KP, yes, but don't block me.

So AboveNet aren't denying him service, they are denying their customer their service, yet still asking for the full wad off them.

Unless you can show me different.

Re:We reserve the right to refuse service to anybo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18431511)

We reserve the right to refuse service to anybody

Actually, you don't have that right. If you sell to the public, you need to have a valid reason for refusing service to someone.

That's why you don't see stores with 'no negroes allowed' signs in the window anymore.

Too Long (1)

JesterXXV (680142) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431157)

I refuse to read this. Brevity is a virtue. I have too much other crap to worry about.

"So, yes, Virginia, " (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431171)

CmdrTaco, you sir, are a complete fucking retard.

This has nothing to do with Virginia the state, fix the fucking headline, and read the goddamn submissions.

(Pro Tip: It's a reference to the famous "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter. Google that up on your powerbook)

can't see peacefire.org! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18431211)

I'm sitting at my desk at the University of California in San Diego and I can't see the peacefire.org website. If I google it, it shows up on top, but I can only view the google cached version, not the actual website. Probably it's getting slashdotted, since UC or our ISP wouldn't be censoring it right? Probably it's the slashdotting, since I can't see it through stupidcensorship.com either.

Which ISP's? (1)

kipin (981566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18431409)

I happed live in Virginia, and am just curious if anyone knows which ISP's are downgrading sites they don't like.
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