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Re: The Real Congressional Agenda? (was Re: The House of Representatives on campus downloading)
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sun, 6 May 2007 20:44:19 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Steven M. Bellovin" <smb () cs columbia edu>
Date: May 6, 2007 2:47:38 PM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Subject: Re: The Real Congressional Agenda? (was Re: [IP] The House of Representatives on campus downloading)

On Fri, 4 May 2007 20:59:58 -0400
David Farber <dave () farber net> wrote:

In a sense, we are in the crosshairs now. Because we are in
a university town, and our local university is cracking down
on music and software piracy, people who engage in these
activities are migrating off of the University network and
asking us for service. They are also going to hotspots which
we provide for businesses, attempting to monopolize the
bandwidth at those locations. (We have been forced to employ
anti-hogging and anti-piracy measures to keep them from doing

Abuses by these people and the software they host threaten to
cripple our service. Ironically, the University, with its
government-funded link to Internet2, could shoulder the load
far better than we can with our more expensive bandwidth. We
try to encourage these people to patronize our competitors
(the cable and telephone monopolies) to avoid the problem.
But ultimately, something must give. We can't afford to host
illegal activity or to allow our networks to be monopolized
by it when so many of our users have legal, important work
to do.

I think you need to distinguish between bandwidth consumption -- or
overconsumption -- and illegality.  While I agree that most of the
bandwidth use you report is probably the result of illegal
file-sharing, there are many legitimate uses for the same technology.
Among the entities that use BitTorrent are NASA
(http://opensource.arc.nasa.gov/software.jsp?id=13), Red Hat Fedora
(http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/), NetBSD
(http://www.netbsd.org/mirrors/#bittorrent), and -- ironically --

To me, then, your note poses several questions.

        Does the Internet need deployed QoS?  (There's been a lot
        of work on general QoS, but this is a special case.)

        Is there an inherent problem with wireless, or at least
        with the type of wireless you use?  (You've stated elsewhere
        that you run a wireless ISP.)  Alternatively, is the problem
        that your network is underprovisioned for the load your
        customers?  In that case, is the problem economic -- the
        market won't let you charge enough to cover your costs?
        If there's a market problem, could there or should there
        be some intervention to correct it?  Or is there some
        technical shortcoming in your ability to do traffic-shaping
        or usage-sensitive pricing, in which case innovation may solve
        your problem?

        Should ISPs (including the university in its role as an
        ISP for faculty, staff, and students) have the responsbility
        for proactively blocking illegal traffic?  If so, how can
        they distinguish between, say, a stolen Time-Warner movie
        and the legitimate copy that's being redistributed via
        BitTorrent at Time-Warner's explicit request?

        Do we give up one of the fundamental tenets of the Internet
        architeture, the notion that endpoints determine what
        traffic flows, rather than the center?  In this regard,
        it is worth remembering that the three most radical Internet
        innovations -- the Web, Napster, and Skype -- came not from
        ISPs, "official" standards bodies (i.e., the IETF or the
        ITU), or major research labs or universities, but from the
        edges of the Net.  (Yes, I know that CERN is a major research
        lab, but for physics!)

These, I think, are the real questions we need to discuss.

                --Steve Bellovin, http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~smb

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