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APNIC: Big Tech's use of carrier-grade NAT is holding back internet innovation

IPv4 limits apps to simple interactions, and in 2021 IPv6 adoption growth was just three per cent


Carriers and Big Tech are happily continuing to use network address translation (NAT) and IPv4 to protect their investments, with the result that transition to IPv6 is glacial while the entire internet is shaped in the image of incumbent players.

That's the opinion of Geoff Huston, chief scientist at regional internet registry the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC).

Huston's opinion was published in the conclusion to a lengthy post titled "IP addressing in 2021" that reports on IPv4 and IPv6 usage across last year.

The post offers very deep detail on adoption of both protocols during 2021. The headline news is that the small pool of available IPv4 addresses continued to dwindle, even as trading in addresses increased. IPv6 adoption, meanwhile, grew by just three per cent – and tellingly, no major player made the move to the newer protocol last year.

The widespread use of NATs in IPv4 limits the technical substrate of the internet to a very restricted model of simple client/server interactions.

But Huston thinks the raw data doesn't explain what's really happening. He argues the widespread use of NAT masks the fact that the internet is largely stuck on IPv4 because incumbents don't see the need to change.

Huston's post ponders what this all means for the future of the internet – and he doesn't like what he sees.

"We are witnessing an industry that is no longer using technical innovation, openness, and diversification as its primary means of propulsion," he writes.

"The widespread use of NATs in IPv4 limits the technical substrate of the internet to a very restricted model of simple client/server interactions using TCP and UDP. The use of NATs forces the interactions into client-initiated transactions, and the model of an open network with considerable communication flexibility is no longer being sustained in today's network.

"Incumbents are entrenching their position, and innovation and entrepreneurialism are taking a back seat while we sit out this protracted IPv4/IPv6 transition."

Those incumbents are large, and act in their own interests.

"Today's internet carriage service is provided by a smaller number of very large players, each of whom appears to be assuming a very strong position within their respective markets," Huston observes. "The drivers for such larger players tend towards risk aversion, conservatism, and increased levels of control across their scope of operation."

APNIC expressed similar concerns in December 2021, when a report jointly commissioned by Latin American internet registry LATNIC suggested that big tech's in-house networks carry a huge slice of global traffic, giving the likes of Google and Facebook enormous influence over internet architecture.

Huston expands on that theme in his post. "The evolving makeup of the internet industry has quite profound implications in terms of network neutrality, separation of carriage and service provision function, investment profiles, expectations of risk and return on infrastructure investments, and on the openness of the internet itself.

"Given the economies of volume in this industry, it was always going to be challenging to sustain an efficient, fully open, and competitive industry, but the degree of challenge in this agenda is multiplied many-fold when the underlying platform has run out of the basic currency of IP addresses," he writes.

"These days, we appear to be increasingly looking further afield for a regulatory and governance framework that can challenge the increasing complacency of the newly established incumbents," he laments, concluding with he perhaps grim observation that "It is unclear how successful we will be in this search." ®

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California's attempt to protect kids online could end adults' internet anonymity

Websites may be forced to verify ages of visitors unless changes made

California lawmakers met in Sacramento today to discuss, among other things, proposed legislation to protect children online. The bill, AB2273, known as The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, would require websites to verify the ages of visitors.

Critics of the legislation contend this requirement threatens the privacy of adults and the ability to use the internet anonymously, in California and likely elsewhere, because of the role the Golden State's tech companies play on the internet.

"First, the bill pretextually claims to protect children, but it will change the Internet for everyone," said Eric Goldman, Santa Clara University School of Law professor, in a blog post. "In order to determine who is a child, websites and apps will have to authenticate the age of ALL consumers before they can use the service. No one wants this."

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Tweaks to IPv4 could free up 'hundreds of millions of addresses'

And 'tweaks' is doing some heavy lifting, there

It may be nearly three years since the world officially exhausted all of the available IPv4 internet addresses, but now a new initiative has been proposed that could free up hundreds of millions of addresses that are currently unused – or are they?

While the world is still slowly moving towards broader adoption of the newer IPv6 protocol, which offers a vast address space, the widespread continued use of IPv4 has caused problems because all available ranges of the roughly 4.3 billion addresses it supports have largely been allocated.

Now it seems that Seth Schoen, formerly a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founder of Let's Encrypt, has made proposals collectively labelled either the IPv4 Unicast Extensions Project or the IPv4 Cleanup Project (both are used on the project's GitHub page).

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Cable cut blamed for global four-hour internet disruption

Google Cloud, OVHcloud say everything's getting back to normal, which is a shame

Google Cloud and other internet service providers are recovering from network issues attributed to a network cable cut that began in the Middle East and Asia just before 0700 PDT (1400 UTC).

The cable, Asia-Africa-Europe-1 (AAE-1), is a 25,000km submarine cable operated by a telecom consortium. It connects South East Asia to Europe by way of Egypt.

According to Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at network monitoring biz Kentik, problems with AAE-1 affected internet connectivity in various countries in East Africa, Middle East and South Asia, including Pakistan, Somalia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia.

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US Supreme Court puts Texas social media law on hold

Justices Roberts, Kavanaugh, Barrett help halt enforcement of HB 20

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated the suspension of Texas' social-media law HB 20 while litigation to have the legislation declared unconstitutional continues.

The law, signed in September by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), and promptly opposed, forbids large social media companies from moderating lawful content based on a "viewpoint," such as "smoking cures cancer" or "vaccines are poison" or hateful theories of racial superiority. Its ostensible purpose is to prevent internet giants from discriminating against conservative social media posts, something that studies indicate is not happening.

Those fighting the law – industry groups and advocacy organizations – say the rules would require large social media services such as Facebook and Twitter to distribute "lawful but awful" content – hate speech, misinformation, and other dubious material. They argue companies have a First Amendment right to exercise editorial discretion for the content distributed on their platforms.

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Big Tech shrank the internet while growing its own power

Classic internet ideas matter less now that CDNs and private networks dominate traffic

Comment The internet has become smaller, the result of a rethinking of when and where to use the 'net's intended architecture. In the process it may also have further concentrated power in the hands of giant technology companies.

Given the ever-expanding content and resources available online, and proliferation of connected devices, the notion that the internet has shrunk is counter-intuitive. But shrunk it has – to the point at which some iPhones do not immediately connect to the open internet.

Those phones are iPhones running the latest version of Apple's iOS and the opt-in service called Private Relay. The iGiant bills Private Relay as a privacy enhancement because it obscures users' DNS lookups and IP addresses by funneling traffic over networks operated by Cloudflare, according to specs set by Apple.

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Telcos fear Big Tech will bleed them until they can’t afford network builds

The GSMA would say that, yet Big Tech is making it harder for carriers to turn a quid

Telcos risk missing out on revenue needed to fund new networks, despite demand for their services soaring – and Big Tech is to blame.

That’s the thrust of GSM Association’s 2022 Internet Value Chain Report, released yesterday.

The Association considers the internet value to chain to comprise revenue won by all players involved in the end-to-end service experienced by end users using the internet for any purpose. The report suggests the value of that chain has grown markedly, from $3.3 trillion in 2015 to $6.7 trillion in 2020, helped by growth in the online population from 3.2 billion to 4.4 billion.

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Another ex-eBay exec admits cyberstalking web souk critics

David Harville is seventh to cop to harassment campaign

David Harville, eBay's former director of global resiliency, pleaded guilty this week to five felony counts of participating in a plan to harass and intimidate journalists who were critical of the online auction business.

Harville is the last of seven former eBay employees/contractors charged by the US Justice Department to have admitted participating in a 2019 cyberstalking campaign to silence Ina and David Steiner, who publish the web newsletter and website EcommerceBytes.

Former eBay employees/contractors Philip Cooke, Brian Gilbert, Stephanie Popp, Veronica Zea, and Stephanie Stockwell previously pleaded guilty. Cooke last July was sentenced to 18 months behind bars. Gilbert, Popp, Zea and Stockwell are currently awaiting sentencing.

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Appeals court unleashes Texas's anti-Big-Tech content-no-moderation law

That bit in Ghostbusters when they shut off the containment unit? That, but with social networks

On Wednesday, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to undo a preliminary injunction that for the past few months has been blocking Texas's law prohibiting online content moderation while that legislation is being challenged.

Two judges of a three judge panel – all Republican appointees – granted Texas's motion to stay the preliminary injunction, granted last December, that suspended HB 20 amid the dispute over its constitutionality.

The law, signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) on September 9, 2021, forbids large social media platforms from moderating content based on any viewpoint, or on the user's location, unless the content is illegal. Florida enacted a similar law last May, which is also being fought in court and is currently enjoined.

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Cable giants, ISPs, telcos end legal fight against California's net neutrality law

If you can't beat the Golden State, try again at the federal level

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday welcomed the decision by a group of telecom and cable industry associations to abandon their legal challenge of the US state's net neutrality law SB822.

"My office has fought for years to ensure that internet service providers can't interfere with or limit what Californians do online," said Bonta in a statement. "Now the case is finally over.

"Following multiple defeats in court, internet service providers have abandoned this effort to block enforcement of California's net neutrality law. With this victory, we’ve secured a free and open internet for California's 40 million residents once and for all."

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China again signals desire to shape IPv6 standards

Calls for accelerated adoption as local users pass 700 million

China's Central Cyberspace Administration has revealed a plan for further and faster adoption of IPv6 across the nation and outlined plans to drive new developments for the protocol.

The Middle Kingdom's updated IPv6 ambitions were detailed yesterday in an announcement of the "2022 Work Arrangement for Further Promoting the Large-scale Deployment and Application of IPv6", which set the following goals for local IPv6 adoption by the end of 2022:

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60 countries sign declaration to keep future internet open

Lofty, non-binding declaration aims for open, free, interoperable internet in the face of authoritarian threats

The United States, along with some 60 other countries, today presented a declaration in which they pledge to "reclaim the promise of the internet" from "a trend of rising digital authoritarianism." 

The global community is increasingly reliant on the internet, the Declaration for the Future of the Internet (DFI) said, and as reliance has grown so have challenges to the original vision of the internet as "an open, free, global, interoperable, reliable and secure" system. Governments limiting access, disinformation, cybercrime, illegal and harmful content, splintering and increasing centralization all threaten the internet's future, the declaration said. 

To be fair, like other documents of its ilk the declaration is full of lofty ambitions. And like other declarations it's not legally binding. Countries are committing to abiding by the rules it lays out, which include things like not throttling or blocking international access, following net neutrality principles and adoption of international standards, but failing to do so won't result in any form of penalty. 

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Sina Weibo, China's Twitter analog, reveals users' locations and IP addresses

Sssshhhh! Nobody tell Elon Musk

To the surprise of many users, China's largest Twitter-esque microblogging website, Sina Weibo, announced on Thursday that it will publish users' IP addresses and location data in an effort to keep their content honest and nice.

In a post whose title translates as "IP Territorial Function Upgrade Announcement," the company stated it was taking the action to protect users' rights, and to make the service more pleasant to use.

"In order to reduce undesirable behaviors such as impersonating parties, malicious rumors … as well as to ensure the authenticity and transparency of the disseminated content, the site launched the 'IP Territory' function in March this year," announced the social media platform's official account in Chinese.

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