Gordon Cook on the Fragility of the Current Internet

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Gordon Cook:

"Unless we all go back to dial-up USENET or FidoNet of the 1980s, the Internet of 2011 in reality is far more fragile than most people realize. Sending and receiving information rely on the availability of an IPV 4 number. The last remaining five blocks of IP 4 were assigned to the respective registries I believe on February 3.. There is something called IPv6, it is "being rolled out" but Internet content has for example the P2P foundation that wiki that we all love so much is right now I believe available in IPV4 alone. If this is the case and six months to a year from now you are a newcomer to the Internet and you have only IPv6 as an endpoint, you will not be able to see any content that is their only in IPV four. I expect it will be the end of this year before any serious consequences become readily apparent but I would predict that 2012 is going to be rough very rough. If these issues are not handled well the Internet will fragment into groups reachable through v4 versus v6. and furthermore the way the Internet routes its packets may become quite messed up.

We all know and love peer-to-peer insofar peer to peer has been very difficult to choke. But it is not at all impossible to do so. Remember that Comcast several years ago tried to choke peer-to-peer and got into some serious trouble. But it is quite chokable. there are things called flow routers that can identify the flows of different protocols of which peer to peer is only one but if you route by one of these boxes you can effectively deny peer-to-peer transmission. And then there is something called Naurus. this can be used to do deep packet inspection and identify traffic that you might not want to have identified.

You need to be well aware that thanks to the Bush regimes deregulatory fervor which Obama has done nothing to contradict while local dial-up phone service is still regulated virtually no other means of communication in United States is regulated. That means if AT&T or Verizon or federal government agency or Comcast or any other multiple system operator decides that he doesn't like you, he does not have to serve you. He can charge you whatever he wants. And again if he decides to he can refuse to carry your traffic.

Before talking about a new Internet and again I say this respectfully, you really need to understand how Internet service providers work and are linked together. Before George Bush came to power and deregulated everything there were 6 to 7000 independent Internet service providers in the United States now I would hazard a guess that the number of significant Internet service providers is down to about twenty. All of these are deregulated and they don't have to do anything to please the customer. Be they a service provider the size of Comcast with more than 6 million customers or be they some wireless service provider in Wyoming they all have to have assigned to them blocks of IP v4 numbers. To become a customer who can send and receive data they have to be able to give you on a temporary basis at least your own personal IPV4 number.

Now any entity such as for example Verizon or Boeing operation or the FBI or a university that wishes to be able to exchange traffic directly with any other such entity in the global Internet must have what is known as an autonomous systems number ASN. globally I believe there are somewhere between 30 and 40,000 such numbers and they are just about used up. But let's say you have one and you have a business plan that you are able to go to your routing registry which in North America is ARIN, in Europe and middle east is RIPE, Asia pacific APNIC, Latin America LacNic and Africa Arfrinic. Fill out the proper paperwork that can show the proper bank accounts andshow business plan as to why you need X number of IPV four numbers and you're in business.

If you want company like Boeing you run a huge global largely optical network with likely several thousand separate locations in 30 or 40 or 50 separate countries. This in effect is your rival network and you can use a device called network address translation to route as much as you want within the boeingnetwork. However if you want to send to the outside world you need to run something called the border Gateway protocol. This enables you to send packet-based communications to perhaps as many as 1 billion IPV four addresses elsewhere in the world. Now there is much technical discussion of what size network is appropriate to advertise by means of border Gateway protocol to the core global Internet. The total number of globally independently routed networks is right now about 340,000. This number can grow but as it gets larger the cost of routers capable of handling the full routing table can reach several hundred thousand dollars each- with some more than a million

Remember when Egypt dropped out of the Internet? Mubarak's police entered the Egyptian network providers and told him in the fact to turn off border Gateway protocol. That drops the Iron Curtain down. Egypt became a with out internationally routed addresses. If one is extremely geeky, one can use IPV four tunneling and if I understand it correctly one has to be able to do it virtually in real time in conjunction with a colleague at some other network on some other place in the globe.

you have a functioning gray market in IPV four addresses right now and the IPV four addresses that become valuable will be those that are guaranteed to be routable via the border Gateway protocol on the global Internet. You have some fierce division in the technical community with the one side libertarians who take the position that the market can solve everything and never mind. And on the other they take the position if it goes to the market then the ownership and routability conditions of an IP before number will become uncertain.

There is such a thing as a who-is directory., with this you can go by ASN number and look up the owner and contact information of the operators of all globally routable networks in the world. If a network routes and IP before number belonging to another network which routes the same number in a different way you get a real follow-up. The packets loop they drop connection is lost all hell breaks loose. I know people far wiser than I who are deeply worried that we are headed toward a situation where we no longer have a globally uniform ASN registry also known as who is and that without this the Internet will indeed will enter into segments that cannot be bridged from one to the other.

Now you talk about different architectures which is fine. You're not the only ones doing this.. Van Jacobson has been at Xerox Parc for five or six years working on a content delivery architecture. And a couple of years ago he gave an outstanding 90 min. long lecture on this at Google that can be listened to. The National Science Foundation has given I think at least $100 million in grants to a new architecture called GENI, one of the chief grantees is a Chinese woman and I apologize I can't remember her name at the moment but she is on my mail list almost never says anything. I had a conversation with her maybe nine months ago in which I asked her to try to explain what she was doing and I'm sorry to say that I didn't get it.

But if you're going to talk about new architectures and there is a man named I believe John Day who even has something to replace TCP/IP you are going to run headlong into a multi-hundred billion dollar embedded base.

So what's possible? One thing that might be possible is understanding the significance of the optical research networks and eight just being built Obama spinoff called United States community anchor institution network that is designed to connect some 200,000 libraries hospitals K-12 schools junior colleges city governments museums and performing arts institutions. This network will I'm sure run a TCP/IP layer on top of the optical paths. But it is the emergence of dynamic lightpaths from PC to PC that are possible and are beginning to fall into place. These are circuit-switched from point-to-point unbelievable bandwidth 100 Mb here is considered puny and indeed most lightpaths have to be a Gigabit or they can be considered to be curcuit switchable.

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So for me right now the bottom line is that sadly the Internet is held together much more by chewing gum and bailing wire than people realize. Will it collapse anytime soon? Oh you better believe that the commercial sites reached by Verizon AT&T Comcast and the other cable goes will still be there and you'll still be able to shop there but it made get to be a great deal more difficult to reach the ordinary Egyptian or Tunisian.

Does that mean that we cannot build our own networks? No. But folks need to understand that wireless mesh networks although I'd sure rather have them than nothing are not going to be anything like the global Internet that we have now. You're not going to go wireless over and over an option but to get to the rest of the world you had better if you really want to do that be able to reach an exchange point in New York Washington Atlanta Miami Chicago Denver Houston Salt Lake City Seattle Portland San Francisco Los Angeles and San Diego and similar places to that in particular for international FiberNet works the two most important exchanges in the US are in New York City and Chicago and in Europe Amsterdam

NTIA has given recovery act grants to Internet to and to a group of 20 to 30 state and regional networks to lay fallow's and this thousands of miles of so-called middle mile fiber in those fibers are to be interconnected to the United States community action community anchor network backbone which is been allocated 100 Gb of bandwidth. We are talking about approximately 1 1/2 billion dollars being spent over the next 2 to 3 to 4 years primarily over the next two years delay this new infrastructure that my friends is the opportunity because if we can't help fthings get built right in the only choice will be community by community over years many years I'm afraid tried to build our own networks and even should we do that without the guarantees proper interconnection the dividends paid back to us will not be what we'd like." (building-a-distributed-decentralized-internet mailing list, 3/2011)