Videos that take hours to load on a computer; companies fending off hacking attempts; inboxes filled with spam; users that are a little too anonymous for some governments; a network that is too U.S.-centric for Beijing…
These are just some of the reasons that researchers, companies and countries want to change the Internet.
Some companies have already developed a “layer” over the Internet for their own purposes. Skype has high quality demands for voice and video communication and Akamai offers to speed up their clients’ flow through its own network.
In fact, several research teams around the world are working on this issue. In the U.S. there is the National Science Foundation’s FIND project, as well as the GENI and RINA projects. Europe has FIRE, funded by Brussels. China and Japan are in the race too. They all have opposing interests but they do agree on one thing: A network designed for a few hundred scientists cannot be expected to meet the same requirements as a vortex sucking in more than 2.4 billion users — especially when these users connect from multiple devices, do online commerce, and perform surgical operations remotely.
Some researchers actually want to start over with a “clean slate.” John Day, director of the RINA project in Boston, is one of the advocates of this solution. They want to replace the 30-year-old TCP/IP protocol developed by Internet co-founders Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.
The Internet is no longer a network of networks, but a single big network. In the 1980s, while many companies were creating private networks but the U.S. government released its free, open-source TCP/IP protocol and froze the initiatives that could have led to a thriving Internet — an Internet that would have developed slower but would have been more secure, according to Day.
Day wants to fix a fundamental design flaw: On the Internet, IP addresses confuse identity and location. In other words, we give addresses to machines, not actual people. What may seem like a minor detail isn’t. For instance, it makes the network less “redundant” — whereas the Internet was in fact created to provide this type of redundancy — side roads that can be taken in case the main communication road is blocked.
Today, whenever a company registers with two different Internet Service Providers for security or budget reasons, it will be assigned two separate IP address ranges. If they were merged under one single denomination, we would have a better chance of contacting them. This IP address problem results in all sorts of constraints: allocation of network resources, mobility management…
“If we start over with a clean slate, we could decide to identify contents or services instead of machines, it would be a complete paradigm shift,” says Kave Salamatian, professor of computer science at the French University of Savoie. This would be in the best interest of companies like Google. Whereas they are currently forced to negotiate with telecom providers to locate content servers in their facilities, this could grant them independence. Needless to say ISPs are less enthusiastic.
“Today on the Internet, everything is changing: on the top layer, the apps; in the infrastructure, the 4G and fiber-optic technology. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the IP protocol,” says Salamatian.
On the other hand, he says, we can still continue to apply “band-aids” on the IP. Stephane Bortzmeyer, R&D engineer at France’s domain name administration (AFNIC), believes that the band-aids will prevail, because the “clean slate” underestimate the weight of the existing system.
“We already have so many problems with the deployment of IPv6 – the solution to the shortage of IP addresses in the original Internet – that I can’t even imagine how they could build what would not be a new Internet, but a whole new network!” he says.
Band-aids already exist, such as the BCP 38 standard developed to stop IP address spoofing. But ISPs don’t use it, he explains: “They don’t want to pay for it since it is other companies that will benefit from it.”
Secretive Copyright Negotiations Continue at the 16th Round of TPP Talks
The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore , as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.
We say “appears to contain” because the negotiations have been carried out in secret: our understanding of the U.S. proposal is based primarily on leaked texts from February 2011. However, there have been some additional leaks, like those following the USTR announcement that the TPP would include exceptions and limitations to copyright. Despite the USTR’s effort to suggest that introducing fair use into the TPP was its idea, the leaked negotiating text made it clear that the U.S. was likely pressured into agreeing to exceptions and limitations as a concession. The leak also showed that the U.S. and Australia opposed any fair use that would extend to the “digital environment.” Thus, it appears the USTR continues to lobby for ever more stringent international IP standards without much regard for the collateral damage to the public interest.
As the deadline for concluding the TPP is fast approaching, it’s likely that they’ll be attempting to resolve disagreements in the IP language this round. Guess who won’t be part of that resolution? Yep: civil society.
What makes TPP—and in fact any trade agreement that carries copyright provisions—dangerous for Internet users is that IP enforcement is only one issue out of many others that are being negotiated within these agreements. Therefore countries may trade away their sovereign ability to make copyright regulations in the future if other terms of the TPP are more appealing to particular powerful industries in their country.
Our digital rights should not be traded away at these secretive negotiations for the benefit of a few corporate interests. Join EFF and more than 28,000 people in sending a message to Congress members to demand an end to these secret backdoor meetings: