Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The "War on Network Congestion" Heats Up

On Monday past, CBC posted an article concerned with Bell Canada Inc.'s breech of their customers privacy. Apparently Bell has been spying on their customers and finding out what they are using their Internet connection to do on the web.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, has joined the battle against Bell's Deep-Packet Inspection (DPI) practices.

"The CIPPIC, which is made up mainly of lawyers and law students from the University of Ottawa, says Bell has not only failed to show that its network is congested and that its actions are necessary, but it has also run afoul of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in doing so."

This is a very interesting point. Bell states they need to use DPIs to help them discern who is using Person-to-Person downloading agents, but they have no proof that Internet connections are slowing down due to this. Bell and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be liable to a government agency or equivalent. Through this change, ISPs will then not be able to do as they please in the telecommunications world. Internet throttling and similar actions would have to be scrutinized before being put into action.

Not only are the ISPs throttling the Internet connections of their users, but the use of DPIs is an invasion of privacy. Bell says:

"it is using DPI only to read the 'header' on the type of traffic, which determines what kind of usage it is. But CIPPIC contends that DPI must be used to 'open the envelope' on the traffic for it to be of any use to an Internet service provider, thus violating the user's privacy."

BUT, as the CBC article states they would have to look at more sensitize information for it to actually be valuable for them. Since Bell and other ISPs do not seem to be answerable to any higher power, they can do as they wish. They could be checking out which websites a customer visits, what they are downloading, etc. Seems to be an invasion of a persons privacy and security.

It seems that ISPs are waging a "War on Network Congestion," which is similar to the "War on Terror."
  1. Firstly, both are not answerable (at the moment) to any higher power, so they can do as they wish.
  2. Secondly, they say there is Network Congestion, but there is no proof. In many instances of people being apprehended for being a terrorist, they are not told what their crime is, and imprisoned without trial.

It seems that the ISPs are using Person-to-Person downloading as an excuse to lower connection speeds at peak times, and DPIs to find out more information about their customers Internet habits. Since there is no proof of connection speeds being hampered by downloading clients, it begs the question, what are they REALLY up to? I think people in the government should be willing to ask the same question, and be willing to do something about it.

These companies are free to charge whatever they like for Internet service, cellphone service, telephone service, and then throttle connection speeds. Not only that but they are able to gather information on all their customers free of charge! Seems like something is VERY wrong with this picture. In the end though, they have us by the horns, as the Internet has become a gateway to our world. We use it for everything, and they know that. What would we do without an Internet connection? Not very much (probably send telegrams).

ISPs need some liability. They need to have a watchdog group assigned to assess their practices. The "War on Network Congestion" has just begun.


Caledonian Jim said...

Information is power .

Agencies with ANY information on people can never seem to resist abusing their position . The same thing happened recently in the UK. The ISP tried to explain it away as "an experiment" .

Bull .