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An Open Letter to Rich Sheridan regarding the proposed insertion of spam by the Wireless Washtenaw Project

The following was written in response to the pricing plan for Wireless Washtenaw.

Rich Sheridan has served on the steering committee of the Wireless Washtenaw Project for some time. Rich is someone for whom I have done work in the past and I am surprised by his poor judgment and lack of knowledge of the issues in this particular instance.

An Open Letter to Rich Sheridan regarding the proposed insertion of spam by the Wireless Washtenaw Project:


Thanks for the interesting conversation today regarding Wireless Washtenaw. You told me, “The Internet was built by business”. When I disagreed and asked you if you had ever heard of Prof. Jon Postel, you finally (after asking the third time) admitted you had not heard of him. Here’s a link to the wikipedia article on Prof. Jon Postel.

Here’s Jon Postel’s tribute page from the Information Sciences Institute at USC.

When Jon died, he received the some of the most moving tributes from around the world that I have seen for any person, recent or historical. Many of the founders of the Internet are among the eulogists recorded at the Internet Society pages about Jon.

The Internet did not come about through the profit motive. Not at all. The Net is possibly the single most complex and valuable piece of engineering ever accomplished by humans, and it came about through the efforts of selfless individuals working for the betterment of all mankind. People like JCR Licklider, Bob Kahn, Larry Roberts, Steve Crocker, Vint Cerf, and Dr. Postel are the people we should be seeking to emulate personally and professionally.

To take the surplus value in the Net created by all these selfless patriots and try to monetize it in the way that 20/20 is doing through the public face of the Wireless Washtenaw project, is not a good thing. Having third parties who just happen to own one of the dozen or so routers between sender and receiver insert into the datastream their own or third-party ads degrades the Net for both sender and receiver, and breaks the unwritten compact whereby anyone with an upstream router on the Net passes along third-party traffic in a manner similar to a common carrier, without intercepting or interfering by, for instance, adding spam advertising content to that communication. This principle is sometimes referred to as “Net Neutrality”.

There are also legal issues revolving around this approach to funding Wireless Washtenaw regarding the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 18 USC § 2510.

Also pertinent is the General Prohibition Against Traces and Traps 18 USC § 3121.

I also think this deliberate insertion of spam into the network may fall afoul of the Michigan statue Fraudulent Access to Computers, Computer Systems, and Computer Networks, MCL 795.791 et passim.

What you all are talking about doing with this Wireless Washtenaw “free” service is filling the web browsers of people using the free, public service with third-party spam. Adding banner ads to a content provider’s web page without their consent or inserting interstitial ads between content provider and subscriber is leveraging the intellectual property of that content provider without their permission. This is analogous to sneaking into the Washtenaw News warehouse on S. Industrial and slipping additional advertising into the Sunday Times inserts without their permission. This Wireless Washtenaw “free” service with spam added is not a public service at all, but a fundamental attack on the integrity, security and utility of the Net itself.


Henry Edward Hardy

see also: Seven Questions on ‘Net Neutrality’ for Ann Arbor City Councilman Ron Suarez

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 May, 2007 Posted by | 20/20 Communications, Ann Arbor, bad idea, categorical imperative, common carrier, ethics, freedom, government, greed, history, internet, Jon Postel, law, liberty, Michigan, morality, Net, net neutrality, public access, Rich Sheridan, scanlyze, spam, Washtenaw, Wireless Washtenaw | Leave a comment

Hands off my Router! Bad Government! — No to ‘Net Neutrality’!

Hands off my Router! Bad Government!
No to ‘Net Neutrality’!

From a discussion of “Net Neutrality” on

I am in general agreement with Peter’s comments regarding so-called “Net Neutrality”. I would add that for me as a system owner and administrator the issue is: who controls my router policy? Is it me, or is it the government? As far as I am concerned the Net by its historical process should be governed by “rough consensus and working code”.RFCs (Request for Comments, internet administrative documents) such as (more or less at random) RFC 2676 and RFC 2815 provide for quality of service (QoS) and other preferential routing.

So on the one hand, as a system owner and system administrator, I want to be able to offer highest quality service to say, medical service providers who may need real time telemetry and video on a priority basis. On the other hand, I want to be able to give spammers or large organizations backhauling their own IP traffic across my network, an arbitrarily low priority.

Any law about Net Neutrality is likely to be worded such that it will permit interpretations which will criminalize system administrators doing perfectly normal things in accordance with the RFC’s.

What we should ask for is “end-to-end” neutrality — that the QoS (Quality of Service) bits set by a user on one end of a transaction be transmitted intact to a willing receiver. How they are routed along the way is up to the people along the way… not just “a service provider” but sometimes 10 or more hops “in-between”. The whole internet depends on voluntary cooperation without government coercion or proscriptive enforcement.

Here’s a link showing some of the RFC’s relating to Quality of Service routing issues:

Not to mention other routing issues which would become involved in a government-mandated “neutrality” scheme, such as how routes are announced over BGP, or aggregated via CIDR.

In short, “net neutrality” is a slogan for having the government take over and begin prescribing and proscribing how we can set up our own routers and networking protocols. I think this is a Very Bad Idea, and something that Jon Postel fought against.

We shouldn’t be talking about this astroturfing term “net neutrality” we should be talking about “common carrier” status. The operators of the big network exchanges such as PAIX, MAE-East and MAE-West, are essentially “natural monopolies”. They should be granted both the privileges, such as immunity, and the responsibilities of other historic types of common carriers, such as to carry all traffic without discrimination. This however doesn’t mean without routing policies, simply that those policies as much as possible should be “Content-Neutral”.

So best effort, everyone work together, and if you can’t build it again from scratch, leave it alone. Hands off my router! BAD GOVERNMENT! lol

Network Neutrality (wikipedia)
John Postel (wikipedia)
MAE-East and MAE-West
Common carrier (wikipedia)

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 January, 2007 Posted by | Ann Arbor, common carrier, internet, Jon Postel, Michigan, net neutrality, politics, scanlyze | Leave a comment