top ten things lawyers should know about the Internet: #3

April 18th, 2008 by kc

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#3: Despite the methodological limitations of Internet science today, the few data points available suggest a dire picture:

  1. We’re running out of IPv4 addresseses that can be allocated (there are many allocated addresses that are not in observed use , but there is no policy support (yet) for reclamation or reuse ), and the purported technology solution ( IPv6 ) requires investment that most ISPs are not prepared to make . Regardless of whether Internet growth is supported by IPv6 or a concerted effort to scrape more lifetime out of the current IPv4 protocol, it will induce growth of core Internet routing tables relying on a routing system that is increasingly inappropriate for the Internet’s evolving structure. So while it’s fair to say that we need a new routing system , no institution or agency has responsibility for developing one much less the global econonomic and political challenge of deploying it.
  2. Pervasively distributed end-to-end peering to exchange information is not only threatening the integrity of the routing system, but also the business models of the ISPs . Although it bears noting that the business models for moving Internet traffic around have long been suspect, since the network infrastructure companies that have survived the bubble have done so by spending the last fifteen years manipulating the network architecture and the regulatory architecture away from the Internet architecture (smart endpoints) toward something they can control (smart network) in order to more effectively monetize their assets . Since the Internet architecture was originally designed to be a government-sponsored file-sharing network with no support for usage-based (or any) billing, its failure as a platform for a purely competitive telecommunication industry is unsurprising. But we are going to be so surprised..
  3. There are demonstrated vulnerabilities in the most fundamental layers of the infrastructure ( naming and routing ) for which technological solutions have been developed but have failed to gain traction under the political and economic constraints of real-world deployment. In the meantime, over 98% of traffic sent to root domain name servers is pollution.
  4. The common lawyerly assumption that “the Internet security situation must not be so bad because the network is still pretty much working” discounts the fact that criminals using the Internet need it to work just as well as the rest of us. Although we admit we don’t know how to measure the exact size of botnets what we know for sure is that millions of compromised (Windows) systems are taking advantage of network and host software vulnerabilities to support unknown (but underground estimates are many) billions of dollars per year of criminal activities (or activities that would be criminal if lawmakers understood enough to legislate against them) with no incentive framework to support their recovery. Although ICANN is trying to set policies to counter some of the malfeasance that arguably falls under its purview (domain names and IP addresses), ICANN lacks the architecture and legitimacy it needs to enforce any regulations , and continues to struggle more than succeed at its own mission .

We don’t have a lot of data about the Internet, but what little we have is unequivocally cause for concern..

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