THE GLORIOUS PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC of China wants to meter all Internet traffic that passes through its borders, in the hope of getting a bit of cash on the side.
The cunning plan is that it would make it possible for a country to monitor what traffic is going through its borders and charge for it.
Fortunately the plan would require international agreements. Unfortunately it is actually being considered by the United Nations.
Currently countries have a choice. They can either set up a "peer-to-peer" system in which no money changes hands but the traffic flow between the two countries balances out, or an asymmetrical system, where they have to pay the full cost of the connection.
China wants to see countries reaching a commercial agreement when Internet connections are established, including possible compensation for traffic flow and number of routes.
The BBC reports that an EU cyber security expert has warned China's plan could threaten the stability of the entire Internet.
Andrea Servida of the European Commission told a House of Lords committee that technical changes needed to charge everyone for Internet traffic flowing through China could undermine the web's founding principle of openness as well as raising security and stability concerns for all net users.
Strangely the UN internet standards body the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said that it was not clear how introducing tariffs could threaten Internet security or stability.
It said the Chinese proposal did not involve modifying the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). All it involved was using BGP routers to collect traffic flow data, which could be used under bilateral agreements by operators for billing purposes. For the last ten years there have been talks about international Internet tariffs and the Chinese proposal was one of many ideas of being studied by ITU.
But Servida warned that the BGP protocol is an Internet Engineering Task Force standard and is not under the control of the ITU. He said that "the involvement of [the] ITU in this specific matter is highly questionable and alarming".
He claimed there was a clear intention to introduce higher government control of a critical Internet function through what might appear to be a purely technological discussion.
China's idea has the backing of developing countries, which currently have to bear the cost of international Internet connections. µ
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