Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bandwidth Cap: Twilight of the Internet Access Middleman

In early 2000, the historic Water Wars of Cochabamba happened in Bolivia, because a water concession corporation sanctioned water rates that are too high for many to afford and avail of decent supply of water, while forbidding people to collect rainwater, you can read about it on Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit. In the documentary The Corporation showing footage of what happened in that part of Bolivia, people were so outraged, this is their battlecry: "It's our water, damn it!"
Proponents of bandwidth or bit cap cite justifications, such as this article discusses. They want to convince broadband consumers that internet bandwidth is a finite, limited resource like water, thus rationed . Unlike water, bandwidth is only artificially regulated and limited,  but like water, can be projected to be so for profits.

What is there to regulate when what the people contributed is what makes the internet valuable? The blogs and articles online? It's our content! The videos? It's our content! The pictures? It's our content! The social networks and forums? It's our content! The online game experience and scoreboard? It's our content! Internet is first and foremost an information highway, and with our right to know, we have right to have access to information, moreover, we have the right to access information we created and/or care about.

Telecommunication companies (telcos) are the middle men wanting to charge and limit our access to the internet, and consequently limit our access to our contribution that makes the internet a valuable platform. If you were to believe the telcos, this is how the internet is:

The usual internet connection configuration is that your computer, connected to a modem, with the modem connected to telcos for access to the internet. Thanks to http://www.theshulers.com/ for the illustration. 

I won't propose to beg, lobby or protest for the unfair treatment internet users suffer from telcos. The key is to remove the middleman from the picture and be part of the real internet. In fact, Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is the secret sauce to build an Internet Backbone as illustrated below:

This is how basic internet infrastructure is built using BGP. Thanks to http://docwiki.cisco.com/ for the illustration above

Luckily, my favorite free and open source operating system, OpenBSD, has OpenBGPD and OpenOSPFD implementation to help build an internet backbone infrastructure. This is probably the better reference on how to use OpenBGPD and OpenOSPFD on OpenBSD to demonstate how to setup an Internet backbone architecture.

To build an internet backbone infrastructure, you need ASN (autonomous system number) as discussed this FAQ (I'm within the Asia-Pacific region so I'll refer to APNIC resources).

What am I driving at here? The internet in itself is a free and open resource, and what we discussed here is that the internet is accessible to anyone, and more reachable to group of people who will band together, and build the infrastructure to tap into, harness and access the internet. We're luckier than the people in Cochabamba, Bolivia who, after the hype of the Water Wars, still need an infrastructure to have water supplied to them after the corporation stopped supplying it supposedly in exhorbitant prices in the first place.