A bit of controversy is brewing following AT&T blocking the CloudFlare service. While AT&T claims blocking the privacy-focused DNS service was an accident resulting from a firmware update, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince believes it was intentional.
The crux of the controversy lies in the net neutrality debate, with the two companies on opposite sides. AT&T has claimed to be pro-net neutrality, but it also lobbied against it and stands to potentially benefit from repeal.
CloudFlare’s business heavily relies on net neutrality to function as intended. Their service speeds up web pages for the mass market – in other words, the type of service that would be provided through controversial implementation of fast lanes on the part of ISPs.
CloudFlare bypasses DNS services speeding up web page delivery. The service also protects against Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS). The nature of the service also means Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have difficulty tracking user data. This surfing data is a source of revenue for some ISPs, with data often sold to third parties. This makes for a potential motive for the blockage, as CloudFlare is the type of service ISPs would look to kneecap if they could with impunity. On the flip side, this isn’t the first time CloudFlare has called foul or that Prince has been outspoken.
Users applying a security patch on AT&T’s gateway hardware were first to report CloudFlare DNS being blocked. One user reported that AT&T’s response to an informal FCC Complaint was that CloudFlare was “intentionally blocked” to patch security vulnerabilities. The user also claimed AT&T originally said there were no plans to unblock.
CloudFlare gained mass market adoption through making Content Delivery Network-like services and DDoS protection accessible and available to a wide audience.While CDNs focus on big media and have the price point to boot, CloudFlare’s strategy was attracting mass market hosting industry partners and offering a consumer-friendly alternative for speeding up web pages.
If AT&T intentionally blocked CloudFlare, it’s a bold strategy, Cotton.
Those on the wrong side of the debate (anti-net neutrality) claim that they won’t abuse the power. An intentional blockage would be an example of this abuse.
Pro-net neutrality proponents paint a dystopic picture, where telecommunications conglomerates and big media dictate who is deserving of fast lanes and what content to kneecap. It would provide a hurdle for startups competing with media giants, who’d be able to handicap and hinder competition. It’d likely promote further consolidation in the media space, which already consists of just a handful of companies controlling the majority of media.
Basically, Omni Consumer Products (OCP) from the Robocop movies would become a reality. Privatized everything controlled by few or one entity means abuse. It’s a fast lane to them eventually building a killing machine robot somehow addicted to smack.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
Fear of preferential treatment resulting from net neutrality’s death is justified, and Prince is likely primed with concern. However, accidents resulting from firmware updates are common, so there’s equal chance it wasn’t intentional.