Telecom Timeout

Jun 29 2009   8:28PM GMT

Could Iran’s censorship be net neutrality’s back door?

WPeterson William Peterson Profile: WPeterson

A coalition of Net Neutrality backers are hoping to use Iran’s censorship as a rally for net neutrality, as DSLReports picked up. Generally, I’ve been hearing less from neutrality advocates as former champions like Google work closer with telecoms, but with a pro-Net Neutrality President Obama, nothing’s off the table.

I don’t see this time around as getting much farther than previous attempts, but it’s interesting to see that the agitators are singling out deep packet inspection (DPI). After noting a Wall Street Journal article on Western technology used in Iran, a letter from the coalition that includes the ACLU and Open Internet Coalition questions why similar technology goes largely unregulated domestically:

It has been reported that a bill will be introduced in the Senate that will sanction any company that sells technology aiding the Iranian regime in monitoring or blocking Internet connections or cell phone conversations.

Yet the deployment of deep packet inspection technology is occurring in the United States without full disclosure and government oversight.

We ask that Congress conduct hearings on this issue as soon as possible. The unfortunate situation in Iran provides chilling examples of the dangers of these new technologies. Policymakers must fully understand the implications of wide deployment of deep packet inspection technology so we can make the decisions to prevent its misuse in the United States.

The overall tone of the two-page release isn’t exactly alarmist and notes that service providers probably aren’t interested in directly meddling with political communications. Regardless, now might be a time for service providers to step forward and embrace the dialog: What exactly is DPI being used for, and what checks are in place? In discussion after discussion, I can’t help but think it’s the complete lack of transparency that gets service providers in trouble rather than the policies themselves, and this might be a great chance to educate and differentiate between what they’re doing to make sure your streaming videos arrive lag-free and what Iran is doing to crack down on dissent.

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