Are internet freedoms important? I used to think so, way back in the early nineties I discovered the internet at university. It was an interesting place to be, there weren't any adverts, there weren't any shops. It was a melting pot of students, researchers and was, despite what people might say, an interesting place full of ideas. At the time it made the established media look a bit stuffy. In those days people entering onto the net were introduced to net etiquette and it seemed most people would stick to the rules. The net was self policing. There was piracy, even then and, dare I say it, pornography. In those days it seemed unthinkable that a network provider would monitor your traffic, snooping on peoples packets was considered hacking: and probably still should be.
The net has changed a lot, it is big business. Every business you can think of has a web presence, emails and content are sent buy businesses every day. More then ever though there are a growing number of con-men and parasites looking to make fast money by conning people through id-fraud, spoofing, phishing. Not to mention hacking... running this site I now have had many attempts of SQL injection. Even some groups using public upload facilities to upload html to say I've been hacked. Give me a break. At one time I used to run the trackback protocol, but I got ridiculous amounts of bot-generated spam. Should the internet be policed. If it is policed what should be policed? The Music industry would definitely say yes, protecting Intellectual Property: but with recording costs must be at an all time low. It is possible these days to record an album in a bedroom. Imagine if the Beatles could do that, would they have created their own studios. It is clear from the Dance Music industry that a record label really can be run from a garage. There is still a lot of money to be made in music. The idea of preventing Peer-to-Peer traffic at the ISP strikes me as a little desperate. It is also the shutting down of a perfectly legitimate distribution technology as the majority of the content infringes copyright law.
If the internet needs policing its in a way it safeguards it's freedoms in a way that limits intrusion. Like other societies it may be time for good citizenship.
A real problem is who gets to say what is good and bad for the internet. It would be unfortunate if the whole net gets placed in the hands of powerful corporates. Who is going to assure internet freedom? There is a real threat that ISPs increasingly act as a police force. Sometimes openly, sometimes covertly filtering or shaping traffic to suit their policies, and potentially the policies of their sponsors.
What is your ISP doing to your traffic? The Electronic Frontier Foundations looks at issues like internet freedom. They have a project looking at how you can test out your ISP's policies and detect attempts to rewrite packets and other techniques that limit your access. The project is called Test your ISP.