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Too late to define an Internet service mark?

If private networks can decide what software they will support, and what sites you can see, without telling you, and still be called Internet services, the word loses its meaning, it becomes generic, it becomes internet, and we're back to where we were 20 years ago, when proprietary X.25 networks ruled and you only were able to use the services created and defined by CompuServe or GEnie.

Internet Society logo
Comcast is no longer an Internet service in the way we commonly define the term.

An Internet service lets you use the software of your choice. An Internet service does not discriminate between video bits and other kinds of bits. An Internet service is a dumb pipe, with services defined at the edge and not the center.

What the AP proved is that Comcast is deciding what software it will let you run and what software it will not let you run, defining it at the center rather than the edge.

So should we still call it an Internet service?

Several years ago, when folks starting abusing the definition of Linux, Linus Torvalds went and got a trademark for the operating system. The Linux Mark Institute can go after you if you use the term Linux to mean something other than Linux.

The same thing is happening, in a less formal way, with the Open Source Initiative. They define what an open source license is. They decide whether licenses submitted to them fit the definition. Thus, the definition of open source is protected.

No one imagined the Internet needing this kind of protection. Everyone assumed that ISPs would follow the definition of the Internet, that they would allow it to be defined at the edge, that they would not try to define what services people could use or what sites they could see behind their backs.

Comcast has done just that.

But who has the power to stop them? Can the Internet Society say, you're not running Internet services and thus cannot describe yourself as an Internet Service Provider (ISP)? Does anyone have the power to say, you are not an ISP, you are not meeting the definition, and true ISPs will not share traffic with you?

That is what is at issue here.

If private networks can decide what software they will support, and what sites you can see, without telling you, and still be called Internet services, the word loses its meaning, it becomes generic, it becomes internet, and we're back to where we were 20 years ago, when proprietary X.25 networks ruled and you only were able to use the services created and defined by CompuServe or GEnie.

BitTorrent logo
This issue is absolutely vital to open source, because the open source rides on the Internet. It is defined by the Internet. BitTorrent is an open source project! (Here is its license.)

And if Comcast can refuse access to one open source project, they can refuse access to any.

So, now that I got your attention with the headline about spam spam spam, let's talk about what we can do, what anyone can do, to protect the Internet, and open source, from powerful network operators who refuse to play by its most basic rules. [poll id=59]