Another Net Neutrality ‘violation’ debunked
Updated 8:45PM – In yet another case of a made-up conspiracy like the Craigslist blocking incident to drum up support for Internet regulation, OpenDNS founder David Ulevitch is misleading the public about Verizon Wireless supposedly blocking OpenDNS servers. Ulevitch claims that Verizon Wireless is blocking OpenDNS which is an ad-supported Domain Name Service (DNS). OpenDNS sells advertisers data on its customers web browsing habits and Ulevitch claims that network providers want this for themselves. [Correction – OpenDNS collects IP address user surfing habits to sell targeted ads, but that is effectively selling data on customer surfing habits to advertisers in one form or another.] But even this alleged motive is suspect because U.S. broadband providers are not selling its DNS data to advertisers and carriers like Verizon and AT&T have promising not to sell customer data without some kind of meaningful consent from its customers. Furthermore, the evidence shows that the Verizon Wireless network does not block OpenDNS.
Clarification – David Ulevitch seems to have a problem with how I characterize their business model, but I feel that it’s minor semantic issues. Ulevitch claims that they don’t share user data with the advertisers, but they do share the IP address with the advertisers which can be used to identify an individual. I’ll cite this section from the OpenDNS privacy page. “When a website visitor searches on OpenDNS, the IP address and query are shared with OpenDNS’ advertising, search and security providers but OpenDNS does not provide them with any information that enables them to associate or identify these IP addresses and/or search requests with any individual”
I’ve asked various people to test OpenDNS blocking who have access to Verizon Wireless and I’ve gotten a response from someone within Verizon. He tested the his Verizon Wireless data service from a PC tethered to his Droid (Android OS) phone and verified that OpenDNS is not blocked. To verify this personally, I went to a Verizon Wireless store and tested a netbook with built-in Verizon 3G access. I successfully queried an OpenDNS server using the “nslookup” command proving that Verizon Wireless was not blocking access to OpenDNS. I also bought a 2-year contract with free MiFi device and tested it on my own computer from home and OpenDNS still works perfectly fine.
So what in the world could Ulevitch be complaining about? Is it the Android OS based phones which has nothing to do with the network? I quick Google search on Android OS DNS settings is that it’s easy to set in Wi-Fi but the setting is less exposed in the mobile network interface (3G). But the 5th search result pointing to a forum post at XDA-Developers indicates that the setting can be configured with the “setprop” command in Android OS (which is a Linux based operating system). The same forum thread also talks about other Linux configuration files that can be modified.
But do the majority of consumers even care about geeking out in Linux configuration files and DNS settings? It’s not like ISPs charge any money for their DNS service and DNS has always been provided by the network provider as an included service. The only reason to use a 3rd party DNS server is when an carrier’s DNS is unreliable or too slow and that’s generally not the case. Furthermore, the bigger threat and alternative to OpenDNS is Google DNS which is a faster DNS service because Google owns more servers that are distributed across the Internet. So it’s Google that Mr. Ulevitch should be concerned about and not some imaginary blocking at Verizon Wireless.