The Comcast / Sandvine saga seems to have been the catalyst for consumer awareness of the potential for packet inspection misuse.
- DPI used to protect fundamental network integrity (eg stopping DDoS attacks, stopping P2P crashing individual mobile cells, managing unanticipated bandwidth spikes etc) = GOOD
- DPI use to block / degrade traffic you just don't like very much in the hope of negotiating/extorting (pick your point of view) money from an Internet company = BAD
- DPI policies not made transparent to your customers = ACTIVE CUSTOMER DISLOYALTY (ie being so annoyed about a service provdier that you tell everyone very loudly)
- Lying to your customers about DPI = DESERVING BANKRUPTCY OR LEGAL ACTION
There are now rumours that Comcast is playing funnies with traffic going to Google.com as well. It's also been reported that its customer service staff are denying the existence of SandVine DPI gear in the network - although Comcast is known as a customer (see page 21 of SandVine's AIM admission document) and by coincidence, a very high % of SandVine's revenue comes from (a) North America, (b) Cable companies and (c) A single customer (see slides 4,6 & 7 here). Obviously, Customer A is anonymous......
Amusingly, the term 'sandvining' has been coined as a generic term for inept and intrusive misuse of DPI.
I've been saying for a while that heavy-handed use of DPI would backfire competitively on the culprits. I didn't expect it to to get escalated to the US Senate quite so quickly though. I can't imagine Viviane Reding at the European Commission, or assorted other regulatory & competition folk to be particularly impressed if the same thing happened here, either.
Of course, this is all in the fixed domain. Limitations on spectrum (especially at a per-cell and backhaul level) mean that some forms of traffic management are going to be mandatory in mobile. I don't want my 999 emergency call (or any call for that matter) blocked by some local kids using BitTorrent on their smartphones.
But if I pay for a mobile Internet pipe (and I'm quite happy to pay a fair price), I want it to work with the service I want to use. If my operator thinks differently, it needs to be very explicit about this upfront. And incidentally, this applies just as much to any monkeying around with the handset's IP stack or OS, as well DPI as in the network.
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