‘Barbershop Punk’ documentary explains Net Neutrality and issues

Michelle Maisto of Connected Planet writes,

“Barbershop Punk,” a David-and-Goliath style documentary about Net Neutrality and citizen’s rights to the Internet has been touring the film festival scene and on Friday night — a day after the Senate voted to strike down a move to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules . . . Small audience by small audience, the film — which includes interviews with Henry Rollins, OK Go’s Damian Kulash, Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, among others — is educating viewers . . .

Its title refers to the punk sensibility of questioning the status quo and to Robb Topolski, a software engineer and fan of barbershop quartet music who noticed, while trying to share turn-of-the-century barbershop recordings online that his Comcast service slowed down each time. It was Topolski’s methodical research into the service weirdness, followed by an AP story, that brought the Net Neutrality issue to nation’s attention.

Two ideas have stayed with me since the viewing. The first was that the Internet originally followed “common carriage laws,” which were developed with the nation’s postal service and meant that the post office couldn’t read your letter and then decide if it wanted to send it — if you paid for a stamp, it mailed your letter regardless of its content. Eventually, though, Internet traffic grew, and became increasingly lucrative, and the FCC was convinced that the Internet is a different animal and shouldn’t be subject to common carriage, which is very loosely the net neutrality argument in a nutshell: The ISPs believe they own the networks and should be able to read your digital bits and bytes before sending them on, while other people believe the Internet belongs to everyone and should remain open.

Jump to full story on ConnectedPlanet.com

Robb Topolski, technologist and Ham Radio operator, testifies to the FCC on Comcast throttling his bandwidth when he attempted to share non-commercial music recordings to the point that it was impossible to share them. Robb explains that when technology advances made it possible for internet providers to “see” the content of information sent over the internet, some providers began choosing not to transmit some content. “Deep packet inspection (that new technology) means that we are looking past that envelope . . . and looking into the content and then making decisions about how the network is going to treat that packet – not based on the customer’s instructions – but based on the content itself . . . It’s dangerous because there’s no way for the user to know it’s going on,” Topolski says. He asserts that this practice should not be used to slow down people’s internet connection at a broadband service provider’s whim.

EFF expands Robb Topolski’s research on Comcast throttling and corroborates his findings:
https://www.eff.org/wp/packet-forgery-isps-report-comcast-affair
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2007/10/eff-tests-agree-ap-comcast-forging-packets-to-interfere

Excerpt from the referenced AP article:

Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.
The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider.

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