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Vint Cerf and Co. sic the world on Comcast

The Net Neutrality Squad

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Beware, Comcast. Here comes the Net Neutrality Squad.

Earlier this week, an ad hoc collection of tech gurus - including internet founding father Vint Cerf, programming pioneer David Farber, and security specialist Bruce Schneier - announced a new plan to mobilize everyday net users in the fight against nefarious ISPs.

Dubbed the Net Neutrality Squad, the project is an outgrowth of People For Internet Responsibility (PFIR), a worldwide online activist club founded by two old-school internet players: Lauren Weinstein, who was at UCLA when it was site number one on the old Arpanet, and Peter G. Neumann, who was at Stanford Research International when it was site number two.

The organization's latest project is a reaction to recent revelations that two big-name US internet service providers are furtively toying with user traffic. If you haven't heard: Comcast is throttling BitTorrents, and Verizon is hijacking web browsers.

The Net Neutrality Squad wants your help as its seek to uncover similar dirty tricks by the world's ISPs. "The Squad is specifically trying to empower users to pay attention to what's going on the net and report what they find that doesn't seem right - incidents where their access to the net is being disrupted or throttled in ways that doesn't seem to fit with their terms of service or other activities that are less than net neutral," Lauren Weinstein told us.

Weinstein and his team hope to dig up proof that the ISPs aren't going to embrace net neutrality on their own. "Obviously, there's been a lot of talk about net neutrality legislation, but it seems to have stalled because the ISPs have argued that they'd never do anything that would require it," Weinstein said. "Well, Comcast's actions with BitTorrent and now Verizon playing DNS games show that this may not be true."

And how will the Squad do this? Well, they're still in the planning stages. But they wanna give you some software. "We want to develop tools that will help users evaluate what's going on and report it back to us - tools that will be widely deployed and easy to use. And then we'll analyze all this information and report it publicly."

And hope that people will listening. "We want to show them what's really going on," Weinstein added. "Without measurements, without metrics, it's difficult to argue policy." ®

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