Coalition Leverages Iran To Slam DPI

Open Internet Coalition sends letter to Congress to pitch openness on Web

Network neutrality fans have increasingly been invoking Iranian censorship in their quest to get the government to crack down on what they see as the abuse of deep packet inspection (DPI) by U.S. broadband networks. Now they have taken the pitch to Congress with a call for hearings.

While over the past week or so that has taken the form of e-mailed press releases, the effort was ramped-up Monday by the Open Internet Coalition (Google, Amazon, Earthlink, Free Press), which sent a letter to members of Congress trying to pitch their point about openness.

The president has given shout-outs to the Internet for helping get the message out about the violence in Iran, and some powerful senators have said they want legislation to help social media like Twitter and YouTube, remain free to relay that info.

In the wake of that spotlight on the 'net, the coalition said that "the open Internet's ability to allow people to communicate and organize has allowed Iranians to circumvent the traditional state-run
media control in order to challenge the current regime." But there remains a threat to that openness, they argued. "Unfortunately, the only thing thwarting Iranians' use of the Internet appears to be the regime's deployment of a relatively new western telecommunications technology called "deep packet inspection," a virtual wiretap which allows the regime to spy on Internet communications and censor their speech."

The bottom line, however, was not about Iran but Main Street USA. "We do know, however, that the same technology that aids oppression abroad is currently being deployed here at home by U.S. telephone and cable companies, they told the legislators.

Citing the proposed legislation that would sanction companies that provide the technology to Iran to block Internet connections or cell phones, it suggested similar attention should be paid to DPI
technology being deployed in the U.S. "without full disclosure and government oversight."

Also signing on to the letter were the Writers Guild of America, Public Knowledge, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Computer and Communications Industry Association.

The House Communications Subcommittee has already held a hearing on DPI as part of its vetting of an online privacy bill.

At that hearing, subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) recognized the value of DPI for managing traffic, hunting down viruses and helping law enforcement.