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|Comments on news posted 2007-12-11 09:01:11: Over the weekend, blogger Lauren Weinstein discovered that Canadian cable operator Rogers Communications has started using a new technology that allows them to inject content into any website a subscriber visits. .. |
This has nothing to do with "network neutrality." Network neutrality means not using one's control of the pipe to disadvantage competitive content or service providers. For example, if you're a cable company that offers VoIP, network neutrality means not blocking customers' use of other VoIP providers.
Network neutrality does not mean that a provider can't "frame" pages (as do many providers -- especially those like Juno which provide inexpensive or free service) or send them informative messages via their browser.
Let's take a look at what Rogers is really doing here. They need to get a message to a customer. Like any experienced ISP, they know that there's a good chance that e-mail won't be read in a timely way, if at all. (We, as an ISP, find that our customers constantly change their addresses -- often after revealing them online and exposing them to spammers -- without any notice, and often let the mailboxes that we give them fill up, unread, until they exceed their quotas.) The Windows Message Service once worked to send users messages, but only worked on Windows and is now routinely blocked because it's become an avenue for pop-up spam. Snail mail? Expensive and slow... and the whole point of the Internet is to do things faster and more efficiently than that. Display a different page than the user requested? Perhaps, but that certainly comes much closer to "hijacking" than what Rogers is doing. Display a message in the user's browser window (where we know he or she is looking) along with the Web page, and let the user "dismiss" it as soon as it's noticed? Excellent idea. A wonderful, simple, unobtrusive solution to the problem.
Now comes Lauren Weinstein -- known for drawing attention to himself by sensationalizing tempests in a teapot -- claiming that the sky will fall if ISPs use this nearly ideal way of communicating with their customers. Contrary to the claims of his "network neutrality squad" (who have expanded the definition of "network neutrality" to mean "ISPs not doing anything which we, as unappointed regulators, do not approve"), this means of communication does not violate copyrights.
Why? First of all, the message from the ISP appears entirely above, and separate from, the content of the page in the browser window. It's not much different that displaying it in a different pane (which, by the way, the browser might also be able to do -- but this is better because it's less obtrusive). The display can't be considered a derivative work, because no human is adding his own creative expression to someone else's creation. A machine -- which can't create copyrighte works -- is simply putting it into the same browser window.
It isn't defacement, because the original page appears exactly as it was intended -- just farther down in the window. And it isn't "hijacking," because the user is still getting the page he or she requested.
What's more, there's no way that it can be said to be "non-neutral." The proxy which inserts the message into the window doesn't know or care what content lies below. The screen capture in Weinstein's blog showed Google, but it just as easily could have been Yahoo!, or Myspace, or DSL Reports.
In short, to complain that this practice is somehow injurious to the author of the original page is akin to an author complaining that his book has been injured by being displayed in a store window along with someone else's.
There are sure to be some folks -- perhaps BitTorrent users who are disappointed at having their bandwidth hogging behavior throttled -- who will take this as an opportunity to lash out at their ISPs. But most customers, I think, will recognize this as a good and sensible way for a company to contact its customers. Our small ISP is looking into it. In fact, because the issue is being raised, we're adding authorization to do it to our Terms of Service, so that users will be put on notice that they might receive a message through their browsers one day. I suppose it's possible that one or two rabid customers might dislike this mode of communication and go elsewhere, but I suspect that most of them will appreciate it.
Re: This has nothing to do with "network neutrality." Quote:
Actually, it's Akamai that does this, and it does it throughout the Internet as a way of speeding up access. It has contracts with hundreds of ISPs, including Rogers. What it does is not hijacking, because the content provider actually pays Akamai to do it. It works by causing domain name queries to resolve to the IP address of Akamai's cache. Nothing wrong with it at all; in fact, it makes many sites much faster than they would be otherwise.
Then the contract between Rogers and deploy.akamaitechnologies.com must be using IP's: 220.127.116.11 to 18.104.22.168
If you happen to be a Roger's customer then try blocking them, especially IP's: 22.214.171.124:0:80 to 126.96.36.199:80
Then visit primarily news and medical related sites, or sign-into your hotmail account then observe the sort of traffic that has latched-onto your browser, and your Internet connection. If that doesn't smell of spying on customer's interests and surfing habits then I don't know what does.
For me, unblocking those IPs do not make "many sites much faster than they would otherwise". "Nothing wrong with that at all", you say, well I don't buy it.