Net-Neutrality is without a doubt the biggest techno-political debate of the year. The entire issue has spun out of control since mid-2006, and here on the eve of 2007 it has yet to be resolved. The only question is, has net-neutrality already been destroyed and hacked-to-pieces to a greater extent than anyone thought already existed?
Earlier today, Slashdot featured a story on EarthLink’s “random” dropping of email messages. We just concluded a test of our own, and we find the results may not be as random as they seem. In fact, the results point directly to a big spider of sorts, sitting in the middle of all the tubes and picking what goes through and what doesn’t.
According to EarthLink themselves, “EarthLink’s mail system has been so overloaded that some users have been missing up to 90 percent of their incoming e-mail.” But what they don’t mention is, it isn’t random. As a matter of fact, our tests lead us to believe that EarthLink is indeed prioritizing not only message delivery time but also whether the messages ever get there or not.
We sent out 20 email messages from a EarthLink account, and discovered that 100% of them reached an @Gmail.com email, 30% reached a no-name domain, and 100% of them reached an @Yahoo.com email. This could of course be a coincidence, but at a time like this, we don’t think so.
When a system is under load, generally speaking it (attempts to) deliver messages in the order they were received, and they either go through or they don’t. What makes EarthLink’s results a bit more interesting is, the messages that went through and those that didn’t have absolutely nothing to do with the physical network routes:
EarthLink’s mail servers are hosted in New York; Gmail’s are hosted in Mountain View, CA; Yahoo’s servers are in Redwood City, CA; and our no-name servers are in Chicago. Technically speaking, packets sent from New York should arrive in Chicago before they do all the way on the other end of the continent. But of course, our no-name server isn’t on any high-politics list, nor is it loaded with money.
If “dumb” networks existed, then the packets would have most certainly made it to our server before they reached Gmail’s or Yahoo’s all the way in California. Unless, of course, net-neutrality is no longer just a concept or idea for the future, but something applicable in the here-and-now. If the big names in computing are prioritizing one-another’s networks to such an extent, we’re in trouble.