Friday, February 15, 2008

Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008: Why You Should Care

For non-Americans out there, this is slightly less relevant, but not entirely unremarkable, as your country may soon implement something like this as well. It's called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, and it is important to you, whether you know it or not. While, on the whole, I am incredibly skeptical about any regulation of the internet, this is something that I feel is increasingly necessary.

Lake gives a nice summary of the bill, which follows:

The full text is actually very short so I encourage you to read its entirety.

It has three main points:

First to amend the 1934 Communications Act to include some policies which state that "to maintain the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators" is a good thing. And similar statements.

Second to require the FCC to assess various things such as how harmful the restrictions providers apply to a user's network connection are. F'ex Comcast forging 'reset' packets to break BitTorrent.

Third to require the FCC to hold multiple summits on the topic, include a wide range of input (including on the internet as well as live events), and report the results to congress.

This has impact on us, the gamers and downloaders, in a couple of key ways. First, it will presumably preclude ISPs from shutting down torrent transfers. I know that many game clients (WoW, for one) and other legal software use torrent downloads to get their product to their market. As Lake mentions, there are ISPs out there who will force these downloads to stop using forged reset packets. In my personal opinion, even if the claim is to stop illegal software and media transfer, the blocking of this by the ISP itself represents a stripping of privileges that they frankly should not be allowed to undertake. Additionally, if you've tried to mail me at my address and I haven't gotten back to you, I apologize, but I think my ISP is blocking port 25, preventing me from accessing my SMTP server. Finally, I have heard many cases from friends in the UK of ISPs throttling connections to game servers, including EVE.

While this bill would not help my immediate e-mail issue (since I am in Japan at the moment) or those gamers in the UK, it will have an impact on preventing these things from happening to American internet users in the future. Please, read the full text, and, should you feel so inclined, write your congressional representative and sign up on OpenCongress to vote the bill up.

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