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Beyond ITU and the Internet -- neutrality as to purpose
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2008 08:51:49 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Bob Frankston" <Bob19-0501 () bobf frankston com>
Date: September 14, 2008 1:13:45 AM EDT
To: <dave () farber net>, "'ip'" <ip () v2 listbox com>
Subject: Beyond ITU and the Internet -- neutrality as to purpose

We have two models:

· One in which you have an infrastructures own by service providers so they can provide services. One example being a telephone network. This is the classic telecom model.

· In the other you have a common infrastructure that is neutral as to purpose. Anyone could provide services using this commons. This is the Internet model.

The questions raised by Brett reflect the implicit assumptions that are used to justify current policies. The most important point is that providers seem to assume that they know what we want and design their system to meet that need.

This is why it so very dangerous to leave them in the position to do us favors. It used to seem absolutely necessarily for a telephone company to provide us with circuits that had guaranteed performance metrics. The Internet met none of those requirements. It gave users the ability to fashion their own solutions.

Today we see Comcast engineering their network to satisfy the user demands as they understand them. But they can’t understand them – all they can do is give people what they say they want which is more of what they had in the past (broadband) but the users can’t ask for what they don’t have and those of us who do see beyond the consensus denied the ability to move beyond Comcast’s imagination and to move beyond what maximizes Comcast’s ROI as a service provider.

The important point is that there is no need for you to make any assumptions about the devices in my house or the protocols I use.

I needn’t explain or any provider or protocol meister that I am assigning identifiers to each of my thousands of photographs or that I’m using 1024 bit GUIDs as identifiers. It’s up to me to resolve my addresses to a path if I want to exchange bits.

In fact this what P2P is really about – reinventing end-to-end connectivity despite what’s in the middle. Today’s P2P protocols tend to be too tied to their applications though some like Skype have some ideas we can learn from. I expect that there will be some that will become standards like HTTP and HTML have. P2P is what I consider the real Internet 2.

We need to have self-coined identifiers (like GUIDS) so that I can define a relationship in isolation. They should be sufficiently unique so that I treat them as being part of a large flat space but we don’t have to assume there is a single naming space. The hard problem is the authentication problem I cited with Caller-ID – how do you know who is at the other end of a relationships and how to trust routing hints.

Given that these relationships are entirely independent of that path and that I can act as if the addresses are globally unique we have the kind of universal availability people assume. But we don’t really have that now. My son (a very useful source of examples) found he couldn’t use his home printer when using a licensed application which required a VPN back into his school’s system (using his 32 bit laptop) for authentication because the printer “name” is only the locally valid IP address or zero-config name.

If my printer had a globally valid address and I chose to publish a path then he could find it. Of course I would be able to control who could find the printer since, by default, it is not universally visible.

We tend to confuse universal availability with the assurance that there is a path even though many devices and networks are not always connected and those inside local systems are hidden. We also implicitly assume innumerability because today we have so few IP addresses. And, because we started with the barn door open – systems exposed by default – we tend to assume that search engines can find everything.

These assumptions are similar to assuming we have a universal phone book. But we don’t have one and, in fact, all attempts to do a cellular phone book have failed because people like being in control of their availability even if that control is limited to keeping the name (phone number) secret.

We mustn’t confuse inarticulate expressions of what people say they want with what is feasible. We see this again and again – they asked for more CB radios and they got cell phones and few people would even admit that really wanted CB radios.

But far more problematic is trusting providers with our future on the assumption that they will give us what they want. They don’t even try – they only give us what they think will maximize their ROI and nothing at all more because that would violate their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. We are customers not participants.

This why I keep emphasizing community connectivity – we can be our own providers if only we weren’t naively accepting of those who insist on keeping us dependent upon them.

-----Original Message-----
From: Brett Glass [mailto:brett () lariat net]
Sent: Saturday, September 13, 2008 21:10
To: dave () farber net; ip
Cc: Bob19-0501 () bobf frankston com
Subject: Re: [IP] The ITU vs The Internet

At 03:41 AM 9/13/2008, Bob Frankston wrote:

>While traceability has many political implications ito?=s far more problematic from a technical point of view. It means that one cano?=t evolve protocols. Todayo?=s Internet compromises the end-to-end principle by depending on an IP address from a central authority. Io? =ve been arguing that we need to rediscover the Internet by assuring that local networks are not dependent upon a central authority for their names and addresses.

Are you suggesting, perhaps, a return to HOSTS.TXT?

(Note: for those who weren't involved in the Internet at the time, the file HOSTS.TXT, circulated on the original ARPANet, was the way that IP addresses were associated with host names prior to DNS. It quickly became unwieldy as the network grew. DNS, at least, is decentralized to the extent that the database is distributed and each authoritative server has a sphere of authority.)

>I use the example of defining a relationship between a light switch and a fixture in my house without any outside source of identity. This relationship should still be meaningful if I take the switch with me as a I travel around the world.

Why should it be? If you have a home control system in which the number of local device addresses is, reasonably enough, limited to 256 or 512 or 1024, you shouldn't expect your device to turn on the lights back home when it's connected in someone else's (though it may do something if its address is meaningful to the network it's on).

>There cano?=t be a central registry of end-point identifiers nor a single global network.

These are the things that users want. Users WANT universal connectivity. And the "network neutrality" folks rave when one limits connectivity even due to abuse of the network.

>I need to be able to use whatever transport is available with any combination of logical and physical links. One big problem I found with the current proocols is that if I am connected to two pipes I cano?=t really make use of the power because each TCP connection is limited to a single path.

It is actually relatively simple to multiplex connections among multiple pipes. BGP allows it; so does multilink PPP (though with more limitations).

--Brett Glass

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