Oct 292009

The FCC seems to be interested in implementing some sort of “net neutrality” regulation. If people think that means ISPs wouldn’t be able to block certain types of traffic, they should also be aware that the Homeland Security Department is asserting that is has the power to order ISPs to shut down popular sites during emergencies.

Well, everyone agrees that the government needs the power to do almost anything to ensure our existence as a country in the face of a grave threat, don’t we?

In other news, President Obama has declared swine flu a national emergency.

Oh, wait. That’s the same news. Because the example that the Homeland Security Department is giving is the case of a national epidemic where people have to stay home and telecommute:

But the Homeland Security Department accused the GAO of having unrealistic expectations of how the Internet could be managed if millions began to telework from home at the same time as bored or sick schoolchildren were playing online, sucking up valuable bandwidth.

Experts have for years pointed to the potential problem of Internet access during a severe pandemic, which would be a unique kind of emergency. It would be global, affecting many areas at once, and would last for weeks or months, unlike a disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake.

H1N1 swine flu has been declared a pandemic but is considered a moderate one. Health experts say a worse one — or a worsening of this one — could result in 40 percent absentee rates at work and school at any given time and closed offices, transportation links and other gathering places.

Many companies and government offices hope to keep operations going as much as possible with teleworking using the Internet. Among the many problems posed by this idea, however, is the issue of bandwidth — especially the “last mile” between a user’s home and central cable systems.

“Such network congestion could prevent staff from broker-dealers and other securities market participants from teleworking during a pandemic,” reads the GAO report, available here

“The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for ensuring that critical telecommunications infrastructure is protected.”


Private Internet providers might need government authorization to block popular websites, it said, or to reduce residential transmission speeds to make way for commerce.

URL here.

Hmm. Popular websites? I wonder if Fox News is popular.