FCC to end net neutrality,DC protests coming Dec 7 at Verizon stores

Protests at Verizon stores will begin on Dec 7 including two stores here in DC

FCC Chairman Agit Pai has announced plans to revoke net neutrality protections as early as December this year. Once this takes place, ISP's will be able to block popular websites unless people pay for "social upgrades," "media upgrades," "entertainment upgrades," etc. With Cable TV subscriptions plummeting, Big Cable and Big Telcos are keen to apply that business model to the Internet. As usual, Tor will defeat their blocking technologies.

Protests at Verizon stores will begin on Dec 7 as FCC Chairman Agit Pai formerly worked at Verizon and appears to be doing his former and true master's bidding with the revocation of net neutrality. Protests in DC will take place a 5PM at the Verizon store inside Union Station, and both 12:30PM and 5PM Verizon wireless stores at 1314 F st NW. Yet another DC protest will be at the Unon Station Verizon store at 4PM Saturday, December 9

Chris Janx‏ ( @cjanx ) posted this hypothetical comparison on Twitter:

Average Person/mo. (now):

Internet: $60

Netflix: $14

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook: Free

Average Person/mo. (post #NetNeutraility):

Internet: $60

Netflix: $14 + $5 entertainment package

YouTube: Free + $10 premium entertainment

Twitter, Facebook: $20 social package

This appears at first glance to create unexpected opportunities for smaller self-hosted websites, as they might not be in the categories blocked to "basic Internet" Verizon customers without premium content upgrades. The Archive.org videos reachable from this site might escape the upgrade requirement-unless ISP's like Verizon noticed a migration off of Youtube and onto less well known servers like Archive aimed at beating the cable TV-style upgrade fees. This site itself probably would be blocked for politcal reasons.

Censorship for political reasons has already appeared on T-Mobile, though their "web-guard" system is ineffective against Tor. T-mobile blocks (or blocked back in 2011) https://www.torproject.org to prepaid customers by default, but anyone can can share Torbrowser on USB sticks after fetching it by wifi once. At least as of the 2011 era, T-Mobile was using "web-guard" to impose "family-friendly" and political censorship on users unwilling to show a government ID or supply a Social Security number. In the UK there was speculation that similar ISP practices were aimed at driving users off of prepaid and onto subscription plans.

Beyond censorship, Comcast has already tried to block Bittorent, and Verizon is trying to steer users to content they control by exempting things like their football app from their mobile data caps. Verizon has also attempted to get users to agree to having their entire surfing history monitored by Verizon by offering a discount, apparently with few takers. Comcast's bittorrent block was stopped by the FCC just as a new Bittorrent protocol to defeat Comcast was under development.

The defenses against all of these will be technical, as these are technical problems rather similar to dealing with the Great Firewall of China. Tor has always been the "go-to" option for defeating censorship and blocking just as much as it is used to defeat surveillance and law enforcement spying. Tor and Torbrowser are considered effective against almost all censorship and blocking technologies used by both nation-state and ISP level attackers except possibly for TCP Connection Resets/Forged TCP Reset, in which the ISP inserts fake packets to cause the client to terminate the connnection. This was the method used by Comcast against bittorrent until the FCC ordered a stop to it in 2008. It is also easily defeated by manually setting routers to ignore all reset packets.If ISP's were to widely use this method, they would soon find Windows, all Linux distros,osX, iOS, Android, and all consumer routers doing this by default, ending the usability of this method of censorship.

While there are complex approaches ISP's can use to attempt to block Tor access, they are resource intensive and never last. There were reports in 2010 and 2012 of the Great Firewall of China managing to block Tor users, with the two main ISP's in that country simply blocking all the known entry relays plus trying to block the protocols used by the secret relays. This appears not to have lasted, as any contest between Tor and China (or between Tor and US based ISP's) is but an arms race and hacker war in which the tides of battle ebb and flow. Most ISP's operating in the United States are not sucessful in blocking Tor, simply following the steps in the Torbrowser startup wizard presented when answering "yes" to "does your ISP block or otherwise censor connections to the Tor network" and then selecting all the defaults and "connect with provided bridges" is enough to defeat the blocking. It is doubtful that Comcast and Verizon will commit the sort of resources to censorship and blocking that China does, though not impossible that they will.

Beyond Tor and ignoring reset packets, there are also user-to-user mesh networks, cutting the telecoms all the way out of the picture. This is the "nuclear option" against a controlled or censored communications network. When the Arab Spring began, the former government of Tunisia tried to cut off communications by pulling the plug on the entire Internet. Resistance fighters responded by networking laptops and phones by wifi, creating at least in urban areas a decentralized network with no vulnerable central chokepoints at all. With no governmental or corporate cooperation required at all, end users and only end users were in complete control-and with zero monthly payments to anyone. This could put the phone and Cable TV companies entirely out of business

Tor will no doubt have to adapt to accomodate this, with Most websites facing "upgrade" requirement for access will probably set up .onion acccess. A .onion site is reachable without the use of a Tor exit node and neither the sites nor the user's ISP can tell what is going on with the packets. The .onion access will have to be available and will have to be used, as there is no way the limited number of Tor exit nodes can handle US social media traffic or even a tenth of it.

There are only about 2,000 Tor exit nodes on the entire planet, and these are difficult to expand because of ISP and governmental harassment of exit node operators as disfavored content and liberated corporate content pass through the exit nodes. By comparison, tor "bridge" nodes can be set up in complete safety as they only talk to other instances of Tor, and are all that is needed for full-darknet transactions between a .onion site and a Tor user. There will a strong incentive for websites whose users are subject to ISP extortion to set up .onion access and direct say, Verizon customers who want to tell Verizon where to stick their (now illegal and hypothetical) $4.99 a month extra fee for social sites to it.

Remember that Tor has been engineered for years to defeat muscular censorship regimes like China's "Great Firewall" and the governments of places like Turkey and Iran. Surely Tor and Tor users will burn through the restrictions Comcast and Verizon are chomping at the bit to impose as easily as a heavy battleship of the early 20th century would have sunk a light cruiser.

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