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MIC tells Japanese ISP that P2P traffic ban is illegal May 19, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in IT, Japan, law.

The NTT group ISP Plala which had announced back in March that it was going to block all Winny (a Japanese P2P file sharing network) traffic on its network has been told by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications that blocking off all Winny traffic would be illegal. The explanation given is that it would infringe on article 4 of the Telecommunications Business Law which reads as follows:

(Protection of Secrecy)
Article 4.
(1)  The secrecy of communications being handled by a telecommunications carrier shall not be violated.

The explanation given is that to block all Winny traffic, the ISP would need to need to analyse the packets on its network, and this is deemed to be a breach of article 4.
This is has interesting implications, as this would mean that any sort of selective packet shaping should also be illegal. 

Some ISPs (Plala, Nifty and others) have been implementing traffic control specifically with respect to P2P traffic, but this apparently is OK. I must have missed the bit of the law written in invisible ink which says it is OK to breach the privacy provision if the MIC says so. Could make for an interesting legal challenge, but given that the Japanese judiciaries are whores to the Executive and by extension to the powerful lobbies that grease the wheels of government, plaintiffs probably won't get very far.

The ISPs have traditionally been marketing the speeds available on their broadband services, but as some put speed bumps in, it will be interesting to see how customers react.

The wider potential implication is that network neutrality advocates may have been inadvertently been given a huge boost by the MIC which is normally firmly aligned with big business interests (and especially NTT's interest). As long as bandwidth consumption is "reasonable", the ISPs and more importantly the physical backbone providers will not be able to demand more cash for transmission of VoIP or multimedia content. At least theoretically. 


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