Is Traffic Traffic?

One can debate the usefulness of the traffic-traffic metaphor in network engineering. On the one hand, speed limits make a nice illustration of fairness in the network neutrality debate. On the other hand, motorway congestion and the effect of queueing in network congestion control look nothing like each other, at least until we develop motorways that change their length during rush hour, and we decide we’re okay with cars that take too long to get to their destinations being crushed and disposed of en route.

A Media Policy for the 17th Century

I’ve been reading Tom Standage‘s “Writing on the Wall” of late, which I can heartily recommend. It’s less subtle than “The Victorian Internet“, which counts among my favorite books of all time, but that was written before Twitter, and Twitter’s made us all less subtle, I think. What strikes me about his new book is not his thesis — that the “social media revolution” is nothing really new, just the application of new technology to our apparently instinctive love of gossip — but how well it illustrates that much of the present public policy debate over new media technology is very, very old.

QoF 0.9.0 (“Albula”) released

The QoF TCP-performance-aware IPFIX flow meter I’ve been working on, on and off, for about a year, now seems to produce halfway plausible results and hardly crashes at all anymore, which means it’s time to follow the path of real artists immemorial and ship it already: see here, or if you’re really serious about it, just track master on github.

Active Resistance against Passive Surveillance

So I complain about a lull in the news about the more-or-less complete compromise of the Internet by the National Security Agency et al, and then this goes and happens.

One of my old standard interview questions for people applying for jobs with some responsibility for information security was “are you paranoid”? When the lighting was good, and my eyes bugged out just right, this could be a little scary. It’s time to retire this question, I think, because the answer would seem to be “no, I am clearly not paranoid enough”, unless the applicant shows up to the interview in a tin-foil hat.

The Freedom Panopticon

This is the fourth post I’ve started on the pervasive, indiscriminate, uncontrolled surveillance of electronic communications by the ministries of state security of the North Atlantic world. I stopped writing each of the last three either because the rant got too paranoid, or further revelations showed that the rant was not yet too paranoid enough.

But the stream of new information seems to have dried up a bit, as the news cycle has distracted itself with something called a Miley Cyrus, whatever that is, so I’ve had a chance to catch up a bit. And as a researcher in network measurement who left a job funded by security-academic-industrial-complex money to move to Europe to work on a project seeking to apply technical privacy guarantees to network monitoring systems (which ironically was named PRISM, and which I must forevermore footnote on my CV as “no, not that PRISM“), I feel I should make some statement on all of this. So here it is, predictable and unoriginal though it may be:

Pervasive surveillance is anathema to a functioning democratic society, and nations which do not exercise effective civilian oversight of their state security apparati end up being controlled by them.

An Afternoon In Bern: Network Neutrality Redux

Last Thursday, I sat on a panel with Swiss Telecommunications Association President Peter Grütter, Swisscom CEO Carsten Schloter, and Green National Councilor Balthasar Glättli, on the subject of network neutrality, and whether legal protection therefor is necessary in Switzerland. Not surprisingly, the panel was of different opinions on this matter. Swisscom and the telecom industry group support self-regulation, making the very good point that laws change too slowly with respect to Internet technology too quickly to be effective; and Glättli making the equally good point that as several obvious violations of neutrality can already be observed in Switzerland, trusting the industry to regulate itself has so far had dubious results.

Coverage (in German) of the event can be found at and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and if you’ve got 55 minutes to kill, video of the event itself (also in German) is available at the website of the Parliamentary Group on Digital Sustainability.

On Network Neutrality

The National Council of Switzerland1 is considering the addition of a guarantee of network neutrality into a forthcoming revision of Swiss telecommunications law. This is generally a Good Thing. We all like the Internet. This being Switzerland, we all like neutrality. So network neutrality must be great.

More seriously, the Internet has largely replaced the public switched telephone network and the postal system as the basic communications infrastructure of our society; just as with these systems, the “last mile” is a natural monopoly, so guaranteeing equal access to it is important. However, the results that legislation of network neutrality will lead to may vary widely based on how, precisely, it is defined.

An evening in Bern

The Internet Society Switzerland Chapter’s inaugural national event was last night at the Käfigturm in Bern; in my talk, “The Open Internet under Threat” (which, as it turns out, was unwittingly inspired in part by a much earlier post on this blog; slides are here), I accomplished what I set out to do, I think — start a conversation about the present state of the Internet, and threats to its openness, to figure out where we ISOC people as politically-interested network geeks can make a difference.

Talk: The Open Internet Under Threat

I’ll be giving a talk to the Internet Society (ISOC) Switzerland Chapter at a meeting in Bern, at 18:30 on Tuesday 27 November, entitled “The Open Internet under Threat”. After my talk, Green National Councillor Balthasar Glättli will speak on Internet-related topics in Swiss national politics, so it promises to be a really interesting evening for Internet geeks and policy wonks alike! 

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