Google as the 5th Estate

Wikipedia lists the “5th Estate” as an ambiguous addition to the traditional “estates,” including the clergy (1st Estate), nobility (2nd Estate), commoners (3rd Estate), and the press (4th Estate). The term (according to Wikipedia)has been used to describe Max Headroom in Our Ethertrade unions, the poor, the blogosphere and organized crime. It can also be used to describe media outlets that see themselves in opposition to mainstream (“Fourth Estate”) media.

If you believe Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, their vision is to marry artificial intelligence with search engines so powerful they would understand “everything in the world.” A couple of years ago Google further stated a corporate vision to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

A very compelling and interesting vision, until you begin to understand the extent of that capability. On a positive note it gives us a way find and access codified knowledge we’d never gain exposure to under normal conditions (pre-Google and Internet “normal conditions”), but on the other end of the spectrum personal information and confidential information is also collected, indexed, and made available to anybody with access to a search engine.

Posting a blog entry may get you indexed within seconds, as would posting pictures of your family. Your tax records, home information, educational records, and other personal information, if not guarded with near military discipline (oops, forgot about wikileaks.com), will expose parts of your life never expected to the other 4.5 billion people around the world who may have a voyeuristic or nefarious interest in your life.

Going Nose-to-Nose with a Sovereign Nation

However, perhaps the most interesting step into uncharted territory with Google is in their recent conflict with China.

Google took issue with China’s censorship of search engine results, as well as cyber-terrorism it alleged was raged by Chinese government hackers, who obtained confidential information and email data from Google as well as at least 20 other private companies in what Google described “as a highly sophisticated attack.” (Red Herring)

The issue here is not censorship, the issue is the rights of a sovereign nation, versus the development of a global utility that transcends the control of a nation over its citizens. Kind of a new United Nations of Cyber managed by Google.

China is a good target, as self-righteous citizens of western countries reject the socialist political/cultural environment in the world’s most populous country. Of course those who believe in western conspiracy would note that Google has been linked to the CIA and other global intelligence agencies since inception (1), (2), (3), etc., by a variety of mainstream media and private websites.

But what does happen when a private company reaches a level of power that allows it to set both foreign and domestic policy in sovereign nations? Is there a point when the UK, must check with Google for approval before signing privacy or security policy into law? At what point does a private company “cross over the line” of providing a global utility and become a global “big brother?”

Max Headroom Returns to Our Ether

We’ve written about Max Headroom in the past, and he recently pop-p-p-p-ped up in conversations and magazine artiocles, including Wired Magazine. Max Headroom’s world, although brought to us in 1985, is almost creepy in its relevance to modern times. Just swap Television, studios, and TV with Internet and SEO ratings.

“In the post-apocalyptic future where television sets are more important than food, TV ratings are the all important currency of the nation. A new technique of preventing viewers from channel surfing proves somewhat detrimental to particularly sedentary couch potatoes. The top studio becomes concerned: dead viewers make for low ratings. Edison Carter, top news reporter, is sent to find out more. After a motorcycle accident, his mind is preserved by wizz-kid Bryce and becomes his wise cracking, computer generated alter-ego: Max Headroom, who manages to boost ratings above those of any live hosts to date…”

Is Google and Google SEO the new global currency? Is Google search engine placement more important to a company than Euros, RMB, or Dollars? Is Google the next Max Headroom, an omnipresent component of all aspects of our life, more important than our national or cultural identity?

Maybe it is Time to Change

Our lives are now wired with laptop computers, smart phones, Netbooks, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Internet. You cannot walk a block without being presented with license plates, billboards, handouts, or airplanes pulling banners or skywriting URLs flogging some Internet site or service. Part of every person’s life in our current world. And Bluetooth has drilled it into our heads with Skype and other applications transcending the government controlled communications infrastructure with packetized everything-over-IP applications.

Binding this together brings Facebooks and Googles into the basic infrastructure of the new world, almost to the point of transcending the value of fiber optics, wireless networks, routers, servers, and switches.

While uncomfortable to us 50-somethings, we are witnessing a harbinger of the future. The future is wired. The future is a global community with little respect for borders and culture. The wired world is the 5th Estate. Only question is if Google or Facebook will join the first four estates as individual companies as representatives of the 5th Estate.

A Swift Kick to the IPv6 Backside

The institutional horror stories continue, the old Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4) address space is nearly gone, and if we do not transition to IPv6 with its nearly unlimited address space the Internet will grind to a halt.

Call to Action for IPv6A recent survey in Europe by the European Commission concludes that even in technology-progressive European countries “few companies are prepared for the switch from the current naming protocol, IPv4, to the new regime (protocol), IPv6.” ARIN (the US-based Internet Registry) agrees, reminding us that “with less than 15% of IPv4 address space remaining, ARIN is now compelled to advise the Internet community that migration to IPv6 is necessary for any applications that require ongoing availability of contiguous IP number resources.”

OK, so what the heck? Why aren’t we listening to those who understand the sense of urgency to migrate to IPv6, and get moving towards establishing a solid migration plan? Are the vendors ignoring the problem, reticent in providing IPv6 support in either application software or hardware, and preventing us from adopting IPv6? Are we just comfortable in our use of IPv4, network address translation/NAT, and are information technology professionals simply afraid to make a stand with management to start making the move?

Most mainstream software providers appear to be making the effort to go to IPv6. Microsoft has IPv6 as an inherent part of Windows and new Windows applications, Apple – ditto. Google engineers Lorenzo Colitti and Erik Kline recently received the Itojun Award from the Internet Society for “contributions to the development and deployment of IPv6.”

All major switching, routing, and server hardware companies are producing operating systems which include IPv6 compliance. Even cloud computing vendors such as 3tera are providing native IPv6 support within their platform and infrastructure as a service support.

What I Want from IPv6

I want everything from IPv6. Everything that has an electronic, communications, mobility, or interface should be addressable. I love the idea the California Highway Patrol can work with a company such as On Star to shut down a stolen car on the freeway before the driver kills himself or an innocent motorist. I love the idea I can work with an electrical utility to provide smart GRID technology to my entire home electrical system and not only reduce my bill, but also lower my carbon footprint. I love the idea I can control nearly anything I own or manage through a smart phone handset.

The IPv6 address space is large enough that we will have more than sufficient means to address everything we want – while smart people start working on IPv10 or whatever is needed for a couple generations down the road. So they can extend IPv10 to the rest of the galaxy.

Of course, unless we move forward and accept the temporary pain of moving to IPv6, none of this is likely to happen outside of some private implementations such as Verizon Wireless’ LTE network. Verizon is forcing the IPv6 issue with handset and device vendors by demanding their “…device shall support IPv6. The device may support IPv4. IPv6 and IPv4 support shall be per the 3GPP Release 8 Specifications (March 2009)” Kudos to Verizon for taking a stand on IPv6.

I further encourage moving my identity to an IPv6 address. Who needs a social security number, =social insurance number, or other identity when I can have my own personal IPv6 address? No identity fraud, as it can be linked to my DNA or other funky unique security code. My IP address, with my DNA and fingerprint, and I have the basic elements of a base for all other communications and identifications. Or I will become a borg.

But I would like to log into my home, and have heat turned on 5 minutes from arrival, the oven warming, favorite TV dinner selected for cooking, and even my 2 liter bottle of diet soda positioned for easy removal. My television set was remotely programmed, and the MP3 player auto-filled with music and other stuff from its docking station to give me something to listen to during my evening run along the beach or Wildwood Canyon.

Every device for my personal life that has a pulse can have an IPv6 address, controllable by me for whatever reason I choose. No IPv6 address for my jog though, as I want to de-couple some things important to life.

Who Cares About IPv6?

Martin Levy, from Hurricane Electric (a global Internet service and network provider based in Fremont, California), is a tireless evangelist for IPv6. A member of nearly every IPv6 working group (real working groups, not social working groups!), Martin travels the globe teaching, chiding, and inspiring networks to make the move. Martin recently recorded an interview with the European Internet Registry/RIPE where he explains His position on IPv6, his company’s approach to IPv6, and reminding the Internet community of the risks of not making the move to IPv6.

Martin strongly advises ” If you’re getting connectivity in a data center as a transit over an international connection, as a cross connect inside a telecom hotel, if you are an enterprise, IPv6 (deployment) should just be a tick mark…”

Martin travels the world in his quest to inform, and encourage those who do accept their responsibilities and urgencies embracing IPv6, such as at a recent conference in Slovenia, where Martin congratulated the Internet networking and content community by stating “Slovenia’s IPv6 initiative has been very successful and is becoming a blue-print for IPv6 initiatives in other countries worldwide.”

Internode, a large Internet network provider in Australia, has joined the movement towards IPv6. Partially because it is the right thing to do, partially because it is nearly impossible to get additional IPv4 address space from the Asian Internet registry, APNIC (Asia-Pacific Network Information Center).

“Our objective is to ensure that Internode has the most experience of any Australian broadband provider with the operation and support of native IPv6,” Internode managing director Simon Hackett said in a statement. “By the time IPv6 becomes a necessary part of connecting new users to the Internet, Internode will offer the very best ‘production’ IPv6 service available in Australia. At that point, for all customers, IPv6 will ‘just work’.” (Network World, 6 Nov 09)

Our Call to Action

Every blog entry is supposed to include a pithy call to action. In this case the call to action is real. We need to adopt IPv6. Excuses will not bring our global Internet-connected and Internet-enabled world together, and will not enable our next generation of network users to fully execute on the promise of exploiting life in the “matrix.”

IT Managers – you need to get off your backsides, and learn, learn, learn, everything you can about Ipv6. It is mission-critical. Then you need to brief your management – the CFOs, CTOs, CEOs, CXOs, and let them know the urgency of re-stacking your organization to accommodate and drive Ipv6.

Networks – If you are an Internet network provider, and you do not support Ipv6, please get out of the business. With all due respect, you are the problem.

Content providers, application service providers, SaaS providers, equipment vendors, and everybody else hanging an Internet shingle on your door. Ditto – if you are not building IPv6 support into your product, you are the problem. Make it easy for the IT managers, individuals, and future generations by taking Verizon’s approach. “If you do not include IPv6 support in your product, we will not use it.”

What is your IPv6 message?

John Savageau, Long Beach

Shrouding the Net Neutrality Debate in a Cloud of Politics

The FCC finally moved the network neutrality debate forward Thursday, voting to begin developing open Internet regulations. The topic has become quite interesting over the past week, as strong-willed proponents and opponents of Internet Network Neutralitynet neutrality turn up campaigns to influence law makers prior to voting on any net neutrality principles that may become law.

The debate is actually quite simple – should the government regulate, or not regulate the Internet? That discussion revolves around the six principles of network neutrality proposed by the FCC:

Under the draft proposed rules, subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service:

  • would not be allowed to prevent any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user’s choice over the Internet;
  • would not be allowed to prevent any of its users from running the lawful applications or using the lawful services of the user’s choice;
  • would not be allowed to prevent any of its users from connecting to and using on its network the user’s choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network;
  • would not be allowed to deprive any of its users of the user’s entitlement to competition among network providers, application providers, service providers, and content providers;
  • would be required to treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner; and
  • would be required to disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rulemaking.

The Pro Argument of Network Neutrality

Oddly, former adversaries Google and Verizon issued a joint statement regarding their position on net neutrality. Both companies have significantly changed their positions since the debate originally hit the headlines in 2005, with a highlight of the joint statement:

“For starters we both think it’s essential that the Internet remains an unrestricted and open platform — where people can access any content (so long as it’s legal), as well as the services and applications of their choice.
Transformative is an over-used word, especially in the tech sector. But the Internet has genuinely changed the world. Consumers of all stripes can decide which services they want to use and the companies they trust to provide them…

…This kind of “innovation without permission” has changed the way we do business forever, fueling unprecedented collaboration, creativity and opportunity. And because America has been at the forefront of most of these changes, we have disproportionately benefited in terms of economic growth and job creation.”

This oddly puts Verizon in opposition to the other main anti-net neutrality supporters such as AT&T, Cox Communications, and Comcast.

Certainly companies like Google have come a very long way from 2005 when the debate was clearly one of who pays whom, for what kind of service, and who has the right to determine the quality of services over basic Internet infrastructure. In the early days content providers wanted a level of government regulation to ensure the Internet transmission and network providers did not have control over the end user experience, and objected to statements by AT&T’s then CEO Ed Whitacre who stated in an interview with Business Week:

“How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

This set off both a furor among Internet users, as well as a new movement to ensure the “telcos” did not ever again have an opportunity to restrict or limit free access to their networks. Arguments ranged from identifying the US taxpayer and AT&T customers paying for basic infrastructure our of Universal Services Fund/USF (meaning the US taxpayer is actually the owner of much of AT&T’s USF-funded infrastructure), to AT&T subscribers being forced to use AT&T preferred content providers based on their control of the network.

There are many organizations representing both users and Internet industry companies supporting the idea of network neutrality. The current law in the house is sponsored by Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) who introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 3458) in July 2009.

The Con Argument

Not surprisingly, the Con argument is dominated by conservatives in both the government and corporate communities.

John McCain (who is also accused by the Huffington Post as having received more than $800,000 in campaign funding by AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast) rejected the FCC’s vote, and offered a new proposal called the “Internet Freedom Act.”

“Today I’m pleased to introduce the Internet Freedom Act of 2009 that will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation,” McCain said in a statement. “It will allow for continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeking new employment. Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy.” (CNN)

The only thing missing in the above cliché-filled statement is a series of pictures of crying babies, unemployment lines, and California wildfires. The bottom line here is that politicians, bending to pressure or contributions from opposition parties, will use any words available to tug at either emotions or heart strings, regardless of the presence of factual data to support the position.

AT&T allegedly sent notice to all their employees, including union members and families, to write their representatives in favor of knocking down network neutrality. Perhaps that is a natural activity in the political process, however bandwagon appeals without supporting fact will not give the American people the broadband environment needed to compete in the global market placed.

Let’s look at both arguments in detail. Do a Google, Bing, Yahoo, or other web search on the topic of Net/Network Neutrality. You will find a lot of web references, news stories, blogs, and opinions on the topic. Much of it anarchistic noise, much of it very valuable information.

Hunter Newby, CEO of Allied Fiber, asks the question “What if the United States falls further behind Europe in deployment of broadband networks? What if we lose track of the need to wire each and every community? What if the United States falls so far behind Europe and the rest of the world due to politics preventing innovation that we can never economically recover?”

There are those who still believe the carriers, such as Verizon, AT&T, broadband wireless providers (such as Clearwire), and the cable companies should concentrate their efforts on delivering connectivity to each and every addressable community in the United States. Facility-based carriers (those who own the physical cable) should concentrate on providing bundles of “big, fat, dumb, communications pipes.”

Comments on Net Neutrality are Now Open with the FCC

The great thing about the US system is that no national law is ever a unilateral decision. We have a wonderful system of due-diligence through the congress and senate, with support from the executive and judicial branches of government.

The Federal Communications Commission under the leadership of Chairman Genachowski has opened discussion and the period of comment on the FCC guidelines. The period for comments is open until 14 Jan 2010. Some links for those interested in the topic include:

FCC Seeks Public Input on Draft Rules to Preserve the Free and Open Internet
NPRM: Word | Acrobat
News Release: Word | Acrobat
Genachowski Statement: Word | Acrobat
Copps Statement: Word | Acrobat
McDowell Statement: Word | Acrobat
Clyburn Statement: Word | Acrobat
Baker Statement: Word | Acrobat
Staff Presentation: Acrobat

The question arises, “what if we, as Americans interested in the future of the Internet, American innovation, the American economy, and our future generations actually took the time to read through the issue of Network Neutrality? What if we used our research as a basis for making our own decision on which side of the debate we fall, or if there is yet another strong argument to consider?”

It is a difficult topic, with a lot of noise and clouds shrouding the core issues. Weigh-in, let us know your opinion.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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