Internet Kill Switch

Internet Kill Switch

A short Quiz. What type of traffic by far constitutes the bulk of “unauthorized traffic” across the public internet? Answer that, and you will know what the so-called “The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010” intends to address. There is a sophisticated “libertarian class analysis” that can be employed here, but I would caution against being diverted by nonsense of an “internet kill switch.” Tier 1 and Tier 2 providers have invested immensely in redundancy over the years because network down time, resulting from either hardware failure or electrical grid failure(power failure), can be an extinction level event. Even if you flipped off portions of the power grid, you wouldn’t be able to “kill” the public network. And even if, say, you could, it should be noted that “killing” it for even a day would have devastating economic and welfare costs on the global economy, noting that a great deal of global internet traffic flows across the US internet backbone.

So “re-engineering the internet” will not mean re-engineering redundancy so that any one person or group can effectively shut down the public network. At this point, it would be a massively welfare costly endeavor that is not only impractical, but frankly would introduce an obvious huge security hole. No, “re-engineering the internet” means something else here. It is, in effect, the continued subverting of the evolving IPv6 standards, particularly the security protocols, to political ends. What we end up with is either a de facto or de jure “federal license cartel” gestapo enforced over network management. Networks involved in any significant peering will have to employ “federally certified administrators” who will be involved in ensuring that network routing will be in compliance with federal guidelines, that is to say, federal guidelines on how IP traffic will be analyzed and filtered before routing. If it’s not de jure mandated, then it will be “softly” mandated by offering “liability” protection to those who participate. If you don’t participate, then you will be exposed for full liability for “security breaches.” And what are these security breaches? Chinese or East European hackers stealing state secrets or flooding “critical infrastructure” networks with Denial of Service attacks? Laugh the fuck out loud. No, the greatest incidence, by far, of “unauthorized” traffic is copyrighted digital traffic and piracy. So, it should be plain to see that although this Bill is not being “sold” as a mechanism to combat copyright(it’s being sold in terms of protecting National Security) before passage, the end result will be that this is exactly what it will be used to combat. If you don’t “participate” in following federal guidelines in the filtering and routing of traffic, you will be liable for copyright violations. So, yes, federal guidelines are going to be written to try to stop copyrighted digital work being distributed over bitTorrent. Yes, this will also be used to try to combat the likes of Wikileaks and it’s distributive model of disseminating embarrassing classified information the government doesn’t want you to know about. A simplified but accurate way to think of this is to imagine every border router for every Tier 1 and Tier 2 network being reprogrammed to filter traffic according to “federal guidelines;” guidelines, of course, that will be subject to the political process and influence.

Often, I hear/read ignoramuses parrot the line that the government “invented the internet.” These ignoramuses probably wouldn’t know a protocol from a hole in the wall. This is absurd nonsense, given the amazing breadth and scope of what actually underlies what we collectively refer to as “the internet.” It’s been a cumulative evolution of private, public, and joint public-private action. To elucidate on this really requires an entire book. But I can say the internet, although a decentralized, packet-switched network, does require cooperative, collective action, as coordination problem, to effectively serve as an effective wide-spread communication network; really in a myriad of ways. The Internet Society, since the early 90s, has been the umbrella organization for these many cooperative, often informal groups, such as the IETF. The Internet Society’s stated mission is: “to assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.”

The internet as a wide area, decentralized packet-switched network than delivers formatted information that be accessed from a myriad of different hardware devices and nodes can’t work without a plethora of agreed upon standards, up and down the IP stack. Admittedly, there has been a significant informal public-private joint role in this, including the development and adoption of the OSI model itself. However, in using the terminology of Hayek, this informal public-private partnership(and it has been mostly informal, not formal) was “planning for competition” and not against it. However, since the planning of IPv6, the eventual 128 bit internet protocol replacement for the current 32-bit IPv4, I’ve noted that this joint public-private partnership in some areas has become quite a bit more formal, especially in the area of security protocols, noting the NSA has long been involved in the development of “the security” of IPv6, and that planning in some aspects has turned from planning for competition to planning against competition. The future internet is being subverted by politics, which counters the assurance of an open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” Instead, the future internet is evolving where some are clearly going to benefit more than others.

“The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010” is rich material for a libertarian class analysis deconstruction. What we are seeing is a formalization of a joint public-private partnership to plan against competition in a communications network that many hold out to be the last remaining bulwark against rogue statism. People like Michael McConnell and the sleazy corporatist symbiosis between the NSA and the likes of Booz Allen Hamilton is in our future, and it only portends the coming corporatist sleaze between government, Corporate Media, and corporate security. Rest assured, the NSA is going to be heavily involved in enforcing “copyright.”

And as I’ve written on many previous occasions, tell me what the copyright laws are at the end of this century, and I can tell you what kind of government humans will have.

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