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Cable companies testing “Net-Partisanship” with their DNS servers?

slowdns
Upon first learning about how the internet routes information in little packets of data and magically sews them back together on your screen, I recall thinking: “How can this keep working? Nobody’s in charge!”

And slowly over the years I’ve watched as paid dialup accounts gave way to free email and free wifi.
Then the phone people finally got serious, and the cable people figured out how to do fiber, each with their own cunning way to cause me to happily fork out a goodly portion of my “disposable” income for bandwidth and access. I’ve watched as both cable and DSL oversold their offerings, used bait-and-switch pricing, weren’t prepared for the burden of having all their customers online ALL the time.
For a few years I thought maybe they had all finally gotten their acts together, and there was a stable, well-oiled internet machine out there we could all use. Then people stopped watching TV.
I’ll admit it, I did. I do, however watch a LOT of you-tube videos. Whenever I want.
And the cable internet providers hate that! They’ve tried to argue that the FCC never had the right to enforce

Now, I’ve just introduced a vast array of weekly rant possibilities, but I’m going to try to stick to my main rant here today, are you ready?

I suspect cable companies of playing unfair games with their DNS server.

You can quote me as of today, October 7, 2013.

I’ve read some of the transcripts of the appeal Verizon brought against the FCC, arguing that they never had the authority to demand that internet providers treat all traffic equally.
That was abandoned in light of the current government shutdown, and I’m wondering if maybe my cable company, Charter Communications, has decided to test the water with a new ploy.

Starting about 3 weeks ago, I noticed that web browsing of some pages was taking forever to load.
At first I suspected my cable modem or my connection, but the standard speed tests showed that I was actually getting about half the 30 mB download speeds I’d been promised, and I was surprised it was that good! But as I watched my browser’s status bar (on the bottom if you use Mozilla) it kept having
trouble resolving hosts that the site referenced to load ads. Frustrated, I tried looking up the DNS entry for the same site from a server I lease in Dallas. It responded within milliseconds, while the site I was trying to load with my cable modem would sometimes pop up after over a minute’s wait!

OK, whats going on here and how do I prove that? I’m still working on that, but I do have a working hypothesis: I believe Charter and possibly some other ISPs are experimenting with a way to have two tiers of DNS lookup service. Either they like you because you paid them to respond quickly, or they don’t care if their DNS server ever finds your IP address. Now, DNS servers are supposed to keep these requests in cache so that if you return a few minutes later, it doesn’t need to look it up again.
Except for some of these sites, its as if they are on a blacklist.

Now, given what Mr Snowden has revealed about the NSA’s collossal program of trying to SAVE every packet that flows on the internet, (just in case they might need to go back and find it to capture a terrorist) it suddenly dawned on me that they don’t need to capture it all, they just need to capture your DNS requests and they’ll know everything about what you surf, what emails you’ve sent, since a lot of requests even include your passwords… in “encrypted” form.

In my most paranoid moments, I can even imagine the NSA demanding that ISPs LOG all DNS requests. Failure to do so or telling your customers you’re doing that is grounds for criminal prosecution and jail. And if I still owned an ISP, I would be very angry at being horsewhipped into compliance with such nonsense, and a gag order to boot.

Happily, I am not an ISP, and I don’t have to worry about that. But I am an ordinary internet user that would like DNS service that responds quicker than that for all sites, not just the ones you favor.
Or is it some branch of the government that decides what sites can have good DNS and what ones don’t? Maybe they just have the ISPs use an NSA-approved list of good guys and bad guys and slow the ones they don’t agree with down so the pages take forever to load.

Our government wouldn’t do something that lowly to us would they?
Oh, thats right, I must just be some crazy old fool, the government’s shut down, right?

Here is a link I got from google about net neutrality, pretty good overview:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/15/net-neutrality-debate-may-decide-future-of-netflix/
I had to hit “try again” three times before I got the page to load.

These days, sites have dozens of what are called “cross-site scripts”, that go to a different site to fetch a banner ad or just run a script you’re unaware of to tag your presence and put a cookie on your browser.
For awhile I tried running No-Script, which is very good at letting you decide what you will and won’t allow to run, but then if you don’t allow them all to run, most sites refuse to display the content you’re looking for. They gotta pay the light bill too! So by the time Charter’s slow DNS server looked up all those obviously “unofficial” sites (like ads.doubleclick.net, assets.onswipe.com, edge.quantaserve.com, static.1.rp-api-com, not to mention rawstory.com, the main site itself!) most people would have just given up. I waited the astounding 3 minutes for a simple page to load.

Other computers on my network act the same way, so its not a computer problem.
I’ve tried to set my cable modem to use other DNS servers than Charters, but it doesn’t allow that.
I can individually go around to each of my other computers and manually enter servers like OpenDNS, (google it if you’re curious) but I shouldn’t have to.

Of course, “big sites” work just fine. I guess the days when a little guy can have just as much “presence” on the internet as the big guys are getting ready to disappear. Its a shame if I’m right.

Please, if you’ve had an experience like this in the past few weeks, like the posting below did, please reply and let me know. There actually is a law against that, but I fear someone, (the NSA or the cable companies… not sure which is worse!) is trying to push the limits with this technically savvy end-run.

Your mileage may vary!

Dave Sieg
Asheville, NC
Oct 7, 2013

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