September 20, 2020

RIAA, MPAA Join Internet2 Consortium

RIAA and MPAA, trade associations that include the major U.S. record and movie companies, joined the Internet2 consortium on Friday, according to a joint press release. I’ve heard some alarm about this, suggesting that this will allow the AAs to control how the next generation Internet is built. But once we strip away the hype, there’s not much to worry about in this announcement.

Despite its grand name, Internet2 is not a new network. Its main purpose has been to add some fast links to today’s Internet, to connect bandwidth-hungry universities, e.g., so that researchers at one university can explore the results of climate simulations done at a peer university. The Internet2 links carry traffic of all sorts and they use the same protocols as the rest of the Internet.

A lesser function of Internet2 is to host discussions among researchers studying specific topics. It’s good when people studying similar problems can talk to each other, as long as one group isn’t put in charge of what the other groups do. And as I understand it, the Internet2 discussions are just that – discussions – and not a top-down management structure. So it doesn’t look to me like Internet2, as a corporate body, could do much to divert the natural course of research, even if it wanted to.

Finally, Internet2 is not in a position to dicate what technology gets deployed in the future Internet. Internet2 may give birth to ideas that are then adopted by the industry; but those ideas will only be deployed if market pressures drive the industry to build them. If the AAs think that they can sit down with Internet2 and negotiate the future of the Internet, they’re sadly mistaken. But I very much doubt that that’s what they think.

So why are the AAs joining Internet2? My guess is that they joined for mostly the same reasons that other non-IT-industry corporate members did. Why did Johnson and Johnson join? Why did Ford join? Because their business strategies depend on the future of high-performance networks. The same is true of the record and movie companies. Their business models will one day center on online, digital distribution of content. It’s best for them, and probably for everybody else too, if they face that future squarely, right away. I’m hope their presence in Internet2 will help them see what is coming, and figure out how to adapt to it.

Comments

  1. Jed Sorokin-Altmann says:

    Professor Felten, I respecfully disagree with you… I don’t believe they are joining I2 for research purposes on the future of high-performance networks. My suspicion is that they are joining I2 to make it easier to monitor the traffic of P2P applications over I2, such as those using the Direct Connect I2 hub (www.i2hub.com).

    The music and movie industries have long been crying foul over the quick file transfer available between students over I2, and my guess is that the Powers-That-Be have finally granted the AAs access for monitoring purposes.

    The AAs aren’t interested in figuring out what is coming and how to adapt to it, and it isn’t about the future of high performance networks. It is stiffling the existing networks and stopping trafficking of files.

  2. Jed is exactly right. Their goal is to make sure wiretap capability is built in and accessible to them without a court order.