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Saturday, Sep 23rd

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What Does the Future Hold for the Internet?

Explore the interactive 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital FutureThis is the fundamental question that the Internet Society is posing through the report just launched today, our 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future.

The report is a window into the diverse views and perspectives of a global community that cares deeply about how the Internet will evolve and impact humanity over the next 5-7 years. We couldn't know what we would find when we embarked on the journey to map what stakeholders believe could shape the future of the Internet, nor can we truly know what will happen to the Internet, but we do now have a sense of what we need to think about today to help shape the Internet of tomorrow. The report reflects the views and aspirations of our community as well as some of the most pressing challenges facing the future of this great innovation.

What have we learned? We've learned that our community remains confident that the core Internet values that gave rise to the Internet remain valid. We also heard very strong worries that the user-centric model of the Internet is under extraordinary pressure from governments, from technology giants, and even from the technology itself. There is a sense that there are forces beyond the users' control that may define the Internet's future. That the user may no longer be at the center of the Internet's path.

It is, perhaps, trite to say that the world is more connected today than ever before. Indeed, we are only beginning to understand the implications of a hyperconnected society that is dependent on the generation, collection and movement of data in ways that many do not fully understand. The Internet of the future will most certainly enable a host of products and services that could revolutionize our daily lives. At the same time, our dependence on the technology raises a myriad of challenges that society may be ill-equipped to address.

Clearly, the Internet is increasingly intertwined with a geopolitical environment that feels uncertain and even precarious. The Internet provides governments with both opportunities to better the lives of their people but also tools for surveillance and even control. This report highlights the serious choices we all must make about how to ensure that rights and freedoms prevail in the Internet of the future. The decisions we make will determine whether humanity remains in the drivers' seat of technology or not.

In short, the decisions we make about the Internet can no longer be seen as "separate", as "over there" — the implications of a globally interconnected world will be felt by all of us. And the decisions we make about the Internet will be felt far and wide. We are still just beginning to understand the implications of a globally connected society and what it will mean for individuals, business, government and society at large.

How we address the opportunities and challenges that today's forces of change are creating for the future is paramount, but one thing above all others is certain — the choices are ours alone to make, and the future we want is up to us to shape.

Explore the interactive 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future

Written by Sally Shipman Wentworth, VP of Global Policy Development, Internet Society

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More under: Broadband, Censorship, Cybersecurity, Internet Governance, Internet Protocol, Mobile Internet, Networks, Policy & Regulation, Privacy, Web


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Google Global Cache Servers Go Online in Cuba, But App Engine Blocked

I had hoped to get more information before publishing this post, but difficult Internet access in Cuba and now the hurricane got in the way — better late than never.

Cuban requests for Google services are being routed to GCC servers in Cuba, and all Google services that are available in Cuba are being cached — not just YouTube. That will cut latency significantly, but Cuban data rates remain painfully slow. My guess is that Cubans will notice the improved performance in interactive applications, but maybe not perceive much of a change when watching a streaming video.

Note the italics in the above paragraph — evidently, Google blocks access to their App Engine hosting and application development platform. Cuban developers cannot build App Engine applications, and Cubans cannot access applications like the Khan Academy or Google's G-Suite.

The last time I checked, Rackspace and Amazon allow access to their hosting platforms from Cuba, but IBM Softlayer and Google did not. President Obama clearly favored improved telecommunication for Cuba, in his Cuba Policy Changes, stating:

"I've authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries."

While Trump claimed that he was "canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba," he made few changes and has said nothing about restrictions on access to Internet services by Cubans.

I wonder why IBM and Google do not follow the lead of Amazon and Rackspace.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

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More under: Access Providers, Broadband, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Web


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Networks Are Not Cars Nor Cell Phones

The network engineering world has long emphasized the longevity of the hardware we buy; I have sat through many vendor presentations where the salesman says "this feature set makes our product future proof! You can buy with confidence knowing this product will not need to be replaced for another ten years..." Over at the Networking Nerd, Tom has an article posted supporting this view of networking equipment, entitled Network Longevity: Think Car, not iPhone.

It seems, to me, that these concepts of longevity have the entire situation precisely backward. These ideas of "car length longevity" and "future proof hardware" are looking at the network from the perspective of an appliance, rather than from the perspective as a set of services. Let me put this in a little bit of context by considering two specific examples.

In terms of cars, I have owned four in the last 31 years. I owned a Jeep Wrangler for 13 years, a second Jeep Wrangler for eight years, and a third Jeep Wrangler for nine years. I have recently switched to a Jeep Cherokee, which I've just about reached my first year driving.

What if I bought network equipment like I buy cars? What sort of router was available nine years ago? That is 2008. I was still working at Cisco, and my lab, if I remember right, was made up of 7200's and 2600's. Younger engineers probably look at those model numbers and see completely different equipment than what I actually had; I doubt many readers of this blog ever deployed 7200's of the kind I had in my lab in their networks. Do I really want to run a network today on 9-year-old hardware? I don't see how the answer to that question can be "yes." Why?

First, do you really know what hardware capacity you will need in ten years? Really? I doubt your business leaders can tell you what products they will be creating in ten years beyond a general description, nor can they tell you how large the company will be, who their competitors will be, or what shifts might occur in the competitive landscape.

Hardware vendors try to get around this by building big chassis boxes and selling blades that will slide into them. But does this model really work? The Cisco 7500 was the current chassis box 9 years ago, I think — even if you could get blades for it today, would it meet your needs? Would you really want to pay the power and cooling for an old 7500 for 9 years because you didn't know if you would need one or seven slots nine years ago?

Building a hardware platform for ten years of service in a world where two years is too far to predict is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. It's entertaining, perhaps, but it's pretty pointless entertainment.

Second, why are we not taking the lessons of the compute and storage worlds into our thinking, and learning to scale out, rather than scaling up? We treat our routers like the server folks of yore — add another blade slot and make it go faster. Scale up makes your network do this —

Do you see those grey areas? They are costing you money. Do you enjoy defenestrating money?

These are symptoms of looking at the network as a bunch of wires and appliances, as hardware with a little side of software thrown in.

What about the software? Well, it may be hard to believe, but pretty much every commercial operating system available for routers today is an updated version of software that was available ten years ago. Some, in fact, are more than twenty years old. We don't tend to see this because we deploy routers and switches as appliances, which means we treat the software as just another form of hardware. We might deploy ten to fifteen different operating systems in our network without thinking about it — something we would never do in our data centers, or on our desktop computers.

So what this appliance-based way of looking at things emphasizes is this: buy enough hardware to last you ten years, and treat the software a fungible — software is a second tier player that is a simple enabler for the expensive bits, the hardware. The problem with this view of things is it simply ignores reality. We need to reverse our thinking.

Software is the actual core of the network, not hardware.

If you look at the entire networking space from a software centric perspective, you can think a lot differently. It doesn't matter what hardware you buy; what matters is what software it runs. This is the revolutionizing observation of white box, bright box, and disaggregated networking. Hardware is cheap, software is expensive. Hardware is CAPEX, software is OPEX. Hardware only loosely interacts with business and operations; software interacts with both.

The appliance model, and the idea of buying big iron like a car, is hampering the growth and usefulness of networks in real businesses. It is going to take a change to realize that most of us care much less about hardware than software in our daily lives, and to transfer this thinking to the network engineering realm.

It is time for a new way of looking at the network. A router is not a car, nor it is a cell phone. It is a router, and it deserves its own way of looking at value. The value is in connecting the software to the business, and the hardware to the speeds and feeds. These are separate problems which the appliance model ties into a single "thing." This makes the appliance world bad for businesses, bad for network design, and bad for network engineers.

It's time to rethink the way we look at network engineering to build networks that are better for business, to adjust our idea of future proof to mean a software-based system that can be used across many generations of hardware, while hardware becomes a "just in time" component used and recycled as needs must.

Written by Russ White, Network Architect at LinkedIn

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More under: Networks


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Spanish Police Raid the Offices of .cat gTLD Registry

Photo posted by Fundació puntCAT‏ during the raid.The offices of the .cat gTLD registry Fundació puntCAT were raided by the Spanish police this morning. The company reported the incident via a series of tweets as the raid was being carried out. "Right now spanish police @guardiacivil is doing an intervention in our office @ICANN," was tweeted just about 4 hours ago followed by another tweet reporting that the police was headed to CTO's home. "We're wating for him to arrive to our office to start the intervention."

Michele Neylon writes: "The move comes a couple of days after a Spanish court ordered the domain registry to take down all .cat domain names being used by the upcoming Catalan referendum. The .cat domain registry currently has over 100 thousand active domain names, and in light of the actions taken by the Spanish government, it's unclear how the registry will continue to operate if their offices are effectively shutdown by the Spanish authorities. The seizure won't impact live domain names or general day to day operations by registrars, as the registry backend is run by CORE and leverages global DNS infrastructure. However, it is deeply worrying that the Spanish government's actions would spill over onto an entire namespace."

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More under: Registry Services, Top-Level Domains


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The Madness of Broadband Speed Tests

The broadband industry has falsely sold its customers on "speed", so unsurprisingly "speed tests" have become an insane and destructive benchmark.

As a child, I would go to bed, and sometimes the garage door would swing open before I went to sleep. My father had come home early from the late shift, where he was a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer for British Airways. I would wait for him eagerly, and he would come upstairs, still smelling of kerosene and Swarfega, With me lying in bed, he would tell me tales of his work, and stories about the world.

Just don't break the wings off as you board!Funnily enough, he never told me about British Airways breaking the wings off its aircraft. You see, he was involved in major maintenance checks on Boeing 747s. He joined BOAC in 1970 and stayed with the company for 34 years until retirement. Not once did he even hint at any desire for destructive testing for aircraft.

Now, when a manufacturer makes a brand new airplane type, it does test them to destruction. Here's a picture I shamelessly nicked showing the Airbus A350 wing flex test.

I can assure you, they don't do this in the British Airways hangars TBJ and TBK at Hatton Cross maintenance base at Heathrow. Instead, they have non-destructive testing using ultrasound and X-rays to look for cracks and defects.

So what's this all got to do with broadband? Well, we're doing the equivalent of asking the customers to break the wings off every time they board. And even worse, our own engineers have adopted destructive testing over non-destructive testing!

Because marketing departments at ISPs refuse to define what experience that actually intends to deliver (and what is unreasonable to expect), the network engineers are left with a single and simple marketing requirement: "make it better than it was".

When you probe them on what this means, they shrug and tell you "well, we're selling all our products on peak speed, so we try to make the speed tests better".

This, my friends, is bonkers.

The first problem is that the end users are conducting a denial-of-service attack on themselves and their neighbours. A speed test deliberately saturates the network, placing it under maximum possible stress.

The second problem is that ISPs themselves have adopted speed tests internally, so they are driving mad levels of cost carrying useless traffic designed to over-stress their network elements.

Then to top it all, regulators are encouraging speed tests as a key metric, deploying huge numbers of boxes hammering the broadband infrastructure even in its most fragile peak hour. The proportion of traffic coming from speed tests is non-trivial.

So what's the alternative? Easy! Instead of destructive testing, do non-destructive testing.

We know how to X-ray a network, and the results are rather revealing. If you use the right metrics, you can also model the performance limits of any application from the measurements you take. Even a speed test! So you don't need to snap the wings off your broadband service every time you use it after all.

I think I'll tell my daughters at their next bedtime. It's good life guidance. Although I can imagine my 14 year old dismissing it as another embarrassing fatherly gesture and uninteresting piece of parental advice. Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate our inherited wisdom.

Written by Martin Geddes, Founder, Martin Geddes Consulting Ltd

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More under: Access Providers, Broadband, Telecom


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EFF Resigns from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) over EME Decision

In an open letter to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced on Tuesday that it is resigning from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in response to the organization publishing Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as a standard. From the letter: "In 2013, EFF was disappointed to learn that the W3C had taken on the project of standardizing "Encrypted Media Extensions," an API whose sole function was to provide a first-class role for DRM within the Web browser ecosystem. By doing so, the organization offered the use of its patent pool, its staff support, and its moral authority to the idea that browsers can and should be designed to cede control over key aspects from users to remote parties. ... We believe they will regret that choice. Today, the W3C bequeaths an legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people. They give media companies the power to sue or intimidate away those who might re-purpose video for people with disabilities. They side against the archivists who are scrambling to preserve the public record of our era. The W3C process has been abused by companies that made their fortunes by upsetting the established order, and now, thanks to EME, they'll be able to ensure no one ever subjects them to the same innovative pressures."

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Net Neutrality Advocates Planning Two Days of Protest in Washington DC

A coalition of activists and consumer groups are planning to gather in Washington, DC to meet directly with the members of Congress, as they protest plans to defang regulations meant to protect an open internet.

The event organizer, Fight for the Future, is running a dedicated website 'battleforthenet.com/dc' in which it states in part: "On September 26-27 Internet users from across the country will converge on Washington, DC to meet directly with their members of Congress, which is by far the most effective way to influence their positions and counter the power of telecom lobbyists and campaign contributions. ... The only thing that can stop them is a coordinated grassroots effort of constituents directly pressuring our members of Congress, who have the power to stop the FCC and vote down bad legislation."

Participating organizations in the protest include Fight for the Future, Public Knowledge, EFF, Center for Media Justice, Common Cause, Consumers Union, Free Press and the Writers Guild of America West. See additional report by Dominic Rushe in The Guardian.

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More under: Net Neutrality, Policy & Regulation


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