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Verso Assists China Block Skype and P2P Traffic
November 7, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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The Chinese government has been well known in its efforts to stem the flow of information into its ISP networks. ISPs routinely block many blog and foreign news sites. Emails or files that are deemed to be against the communist state’s philosophy are blocked. And most recently, the online encyclopedia “Wikipedia” was blocked from being accessible only two weeks ago. This is all part of tight control aimed at preventing the free flow of information.

Microsoft recently earned the scorn of human rights activists for its apparent role in helping make this possible. Microsoft recently launched MSN China, a community portal similar to My Space. The portal allows individuals to maintain blogs, a touchy subject that is heavily regulated by Chinese authorities. In order to comply with Chinese laws, Microsoft blocked such words as “freedom”, “democracy” or “Taiwan Independence.” Microsoft defended its position by saying that it has to conform to the rules and regulations of the country it does business in. Business is business, sorta speak. Critics of Microsoft claim the software giant missed a golden opportunity to help fight Chinese oppression.

However Microsoft is not alone in this criticism. Cisco has also been heavily criticized for indirectly helping the Chinese government stifle the flow of information. Cisco’s advanced router technology can easily block out any material/websites/files/blogs/etc Chinese authorities choose.

The real question is whether technology firms should be held responsible for the actions of their customers. This is a familiar arguemnt in the P2P community, and one a technology firm named Verso must also contend with.

Verso announed on September 15, 2005, the introduction of their Skype and P2P blocking software dubbed NetSpective 2.0. According to Verso, their new “application provides the most comprehensive array of optimization and content management options currently available for cable operators and internet protocol service providers seeking to selectively disable undesirable network traffic and improve service levels on their networks.”

No American or European ISPs are outwardly showing interest in blocking P2P traffic, and reports of such interest are quickly backtracked (Skype is another story.) But Verso needs a market – a large market – where the network authority would be interested in blocking “undesirable network traffic.” With the western world critical of products that may be considered anti-democratic, what’s a company like Verso to do?

Verso announced today a new partnership with a Tier-1 Chinese ISP, in which their NetSpective filtering technology will be utilized. This is the first time the controversial software will be put into use on wide scale basis. According to Verso, the technology will be deployed on a city level basis – meaning multiple cities may potentially be blocked from using Skype or P2P software.

However according to Verso, this test is not being preformed to assist the Chinese government further its grip. Rather, when asked by Slyck.com, a Verso representative stated that because of “how it’s been engineered” left it open to security concerns. Apparently, Skype’s free VoIP network gives it an unfair advantage, leading to revenue losses for the major telecommunications carries. That argument may seem plausible, as some American telecommunication firms have expressed similar concerns. But what about P2P traffic?

“The trial is representative of the significant opportunities for Verso’s products in the Chinese market, where VoIP is highly regulated and the use of Skype software has been deemed illegal,” said Yves Desmet, senior vice president, worldwide sales, Verso Technologies. “More and more countries are following China’s direction in evaluating the risks associated with the growing popularity of P2P communication such as Skype, due to intense security concerns with the use of this medium for unlawful purposes and its impact on carriers’ revenues and the bottlenecks their networks are experiencing. We believe that this is just the beginning of a tremendous opportunity for Verso.”

Hearing that “more and more countries are following China’s direction” may not be the most encouraging news. Although tough to swallow, it could be explained away that Skype’s blockage is to protect revenue streams. Blocking P2P traffic is more difficult to comprehend. As being symbolic of the free flow of information, the rational that Verso’s technology is being used for security reasons may abide by Chinese law, but seems distasteful to the free world.


This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Studies/Research

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