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Subject: IP: Cables: Anyone home?

  • From: David Farber <>
  • Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 21:50:50 -0500

>From: "Bob Frankston" <>
>To: "Dave Farber" <>
>There have been a number of cable modem and Internet issues mentioned
>recently and very much confusion. I don't expect to address any of these
>in depth in a short note but I feel obliged to make a few quick
>1. ATT has created a great deal of confusion by applying the "@Home"
>name to the MediaOne services it acquired. I do know that ATT paid six
>billion dollars for Excite by itself on the assumption that people would
>leave their home pages set to Excite. This seemed particularly naive and
>foolish. It was compounded by ATT comments about wanting a share of the
>e-commerce revenue generated by their customers. This seems to be part
>of a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Internet is. I think of it
>as confusing the Internet with the Home Shopping Network and not
>recognizing the layering and the end-to-end architecture. Are the
>current financial problems simply a result of foolish attempt to make
>money off of Excite? Is the connectivity service itself a problem?
>2. I had a long argument with an ATT customer support person who pointed
>to the FAQ that said I couldn't run a server at home. But nothing in the
>legal agreements (for MediaOne) said this and I final got bumped to a
>senior tech who said there was no legal and binding agreement and the
>first tech was simply wrong. This also means the FAQ was wrong and (to
>put it nicely) disingenuous. He did say, and I understand, that they
>want to discourage high volume servers. But this kind of confusion only
>exacerbates problems. Closely related is the whole notion of supporting
>an operating system. The lack of an architectural understanding
>compounds the problems by confusing supporting the network with
>supporting the OS. Often the advice about the OS and home networks is
>simply wrong and exacerbates problems.
>3. As to NATs, given all this confusion and the ownership of the service
>by companies that believe it is their right to choose what you are
>allowed to watch and then charge you based on the value of the content,
>is it any wonder that they don't have the notion that they are not
>supposed to make rules on content? One reason I am concerned about
>applying the @Home brand to the MediaOne services is that MediaOne has
>been one of the better providers. In addition to not banning servers
>they actually encourage the use of NATs for home networks.
>4. But, for those enamored with NATs, remember that they are just an
>interim kludge because of the artificial limits on the number of IP
>addresses. With IPV6 NATs should go away. All we would need are routers.
>The port blocking capabilities are of value to legacy systems that
>default to running all network connections open and exposed. Rather than
>focusing on NATs we must take the responsibility to make sure that each
>system can safely be attached to a septic network. Otherwise we have a
>situation akin to a "bubble child" (one raised in an sterile bubble) who
>fails to develop the immunities necessary for the larger world.
>5. Finally we have the "death of the Internet". Yes, there is a war
>raging. It is about real tolerance for disruption, not just tolerance
>for other religions. A Geoff points out, the Internet has been a source
>of economic growth. If we are afraid of taking chance, we must prevent
>anything that is not tried and true. Unfortunately, this means we must
>ban the opportunity for doing any better based on the false premise that
>given the possibilities of both better and worse we will choose worse.
>The confusion stems from confusing different with worse and the
>confusion between short term chaos and long term benefit. I would argue
>(and plan to do so at length) that "worse" is self-limiting and thus a
>decentralized evolving system like the Internet does select for better
>simply because better persists. The consequences of foolish choices like
>purchasing Excite seem to confirm this.
>Bob Frankston

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