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Panama Government Threatens Internet's Integrity

Panama Government Threatens Internet's Integrity

by , 8:00 AM EST, November 5th, 2002

The Panamanian Government has recently issued a document (in Spanish) intended to end all Voice over IP (VoIP) operating both on and through its networks. A Sunday report in Linux and Main states that:

...the Panamanian government requires "that within 5 days of publication, all ISPs will block the 24 UDP ports used for VoIP and any other that could be used in the future (which could end up being all UDP ports)," according to a reporter and computer consultant there, and that "the ISPs will block in their firewall or main router and in all their Border routers that connect with other autonomous systems."

This "unequivocally decrees that all routers, including those not carrying traffic from Panama, but that might be traversing Panama, have the 24 UDP ports blocked."

The action will not only disrupt popular VoIP applications like NetMeeting, Dialpad and Net2phone but also services such as telnet and the NFS lock manager.

Linux and Main goes on to speculate that the reason for the government action is to protect telephone company revenue from IP-based long distance calls which are billed at local rates.

The decree is apparently rooted in complaints by Cable & Wireless Panama (Motto: "If you're worried about your data, voice, or Internet service provider, we're here to help"), which says it is losing money due to users employing the Internet to make otherwise expensive internetional telephone calls -- calls that would otherwise be listed on Cable & Wireless bills.

Affected ports include: 1034, 1035, 2090, 2091, 5000, 6801, 6802, 6803, 9900, 9901, 12080, 12120, 12122, 22555, 26133, 30582, 35061, 38000, 38100, 38200, 47563, 48310, 51200, and 51201.

More information can be found in the Linux and Main report.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Even though this isn't the first case of of a country trying to limit or prohibit the use of Voice over IP, it could set a dangerous precedent in other countries. If Panama succeeds in protecting private company profits through government decree, it wouldn't surprise us to see AT&T or Telstra begin lobbying.

Another equally disturbing factor in this case is that Panama will not only be disrupting services being used by its own citizens but also by people from other countries whose data may flow through their networks.

The blurring of the line between private business and the Panamanian government in this action shows clear bias and reflects well on neither. It's a short sighted attempt to find a problem for a solution, and that is the built-in problems of the business model of a state-wide monopoly.

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