[Update: Now we have US Senator Wyden propagating the lie that this was a Cox conspiracy to block Craigslist because they have their own classified service. We now have proof and a retraction that this was never the case]
It appears that the Net neutrality proponents have been caught in a flagrant lie in their effort to scare the public (thanks to The Original Blog and The Lippard Blog for pointing this out). MyDD.com and SaveTheInternet.com along with many other Net neutrality activist sites have accused Cox Communications of deliberately blocking the website Craigslist by quoting a report from our own Tom Foremski. This alleged blockage of Craigslist was supposedly an example of what would happen without the passage of an extreme version of Net neutrality being pushed by Congressman Markey and Senator Snowe and big Internet companies such as Google. The only problem with this accusation is that it is flat out wrong, yet SaveTheInternet.com and MyDD.com are flagrantly lying about it. Even though they have been repeatedly notified of the real situation, they refuse to retract their stories and continue peddling the lie.
The accusation is that Cox communications using a firewall from Authentium is blocking Craigslist and that Authentium failed to remove Craigslist from their text based blacklist. Here's a quote from Tom Foremski's original report.
"Back on February 23rd Authentium acknowledged that their software is blocking Craigslist but it still hasn't fixed the problem, more than three months later. That's a heck of long time to delete some text from their blacklist."
Now this is a fairly serious accusation, because it only takes a few minutes to remove something from a blacklist. If this had really been a simple blacklist issue and a simple text string wasn't removed from the so called blacklist for three months, there would be some serious legal liability on the part of Authentium and Cox Communications since either one of them could have modified a simple text based blacklist. Furthermore, there is insinuation that there had been some collusion on the part of Cox Communications and Authentium to benefit Cox's own classified ads service. Here's a continuing quotation from Tom Foremski.
"Jim (CEO of Craigslist) wasn't aware that Cox had its own classified ads service. 'That changes things,' he said."
But the real story is that this has NOTHING to do with blacklists and is actually the fault of Craigslist's own web servers. Craigslist web servers return a TCP ACK window size of 0 which in plain English tells the entire world "don't talk to me, I'm very busy right now" whenever anyone tries to talk to it. This is VERY unusual behavior on any website because they would just be asking for problems if they did this. If anyone follows RFC 793 (the official rule book of TCP/IP) to the letter, they simply won't try to talk to Craigslist at all or they'll talk to it very slowly. Many devices on a TCP/IP network will be a little less stringent and play a little looser with the RFCs and be a little more aggressive in trying to connect to a server that says "don't talk to me", but the Authentium firewall product honored the reply from Craigslist and responded by sending data one byte at a time. Authentium has been working on a newer driver for their Firewall to accommodate these rare situations, but Craigslist could save themselves a lot of problems by not telling the world "don't talk to me" in the first place.
The CEO of Authentium John Sharp gave this interview where he confirmed the issue. Here's a quotation from Sharp:
"The beta of the fix was made available almost immediately - in mid-March. The final version of this new driver is now shipping in our OEM firewall products, and the beta version is available to Cox subscribers via Cox High Speed customer support. This new driver will enter general availability at Cox as part of their summer product release."
Understandably, Cox isn't going to implement a beta driver on a production Firewall that could adversely affect millions of users just because Craigslist can't configure their servers properly. How this was interpreted as a blacklist issue is beyond me, but it's clear that a correction needs to be issues as soon as possible and the deliberate lying needs to end. As Richard Bennett says, "Craig Newmark’s site is screwed up and he’s blaming Cox for it - and seeking a new law. That’s taking Internet retardation to a whole new level."
This is particularity significant since the whole case for the extreme versions of Net neutrality is based on the premise that Internet sites will be blocked without it. Craigslist is the only example of a website being blocked for prolonged periods of time being cited by the Net neutrality crowd and the fact that it has been proven to be a big lie speaks volumes about their position. This isn't surprising given the fact that almost all of the Net neutrality proponents never even read the very proposal that they're pushing for.
On the other hand, the existing laws have proved to be effective when the FCC stopped Madison River Communications of blocking Vonage last year and handed them a $15,000 fine. If this wasn't enough, the House of Representatives have passed a bill that mandates FCC oversight for any complaints of sites being blocked or degraded with fines of $500,000 per incident. But this wasn't enough and the Net neutrality extremists are seeking is an end to all tiered services and a ban on charges for enhanced QoS services.