Utah governor signs Net-porn bill

Steve Gibbard scg at gibbard.org
Tue Mar 22 19:57:43 UTC 2005

On Tue, 22 Mar 2005, Bill Woodcock wrote:

> Uh, yes, I was joking.  Unfortunately, I do believe, on credible evidence,
> that there are people stupid enough to be trying to legislate the
> operation of the Internet without having first understood how it's done
> right now.  Case in point.

Can ISPs get around this by declaring themselves to be private clubs? ;)

There was a rather poorly attended NANOG meeting in Salt Lake City a
couple years ago.  Between bars, er, private clubs, that required (very
cheap) memberships to get in the door, the no more than one watered
down beer on the table at a time rule, the guys who looked like secret
service agents video taping the the gay pride people (all three of
them...) outside the Temple, and the repeated "you want to rent a car?  On
a Sunday?!?" responses from people in the viscinity of the closed car
rental counters, it was a cultural expeience.  Regardless of the legal and
technical merits of the plan, requiring a watered down web doesn't seem

Ignoring the legal and commercial questions and focusing on the technical
requirements, there are several ways they could have done this.  China and
Saudi Arabia accomplish this (China for political content, and Saudi
Arabia for "porn") with national firewalls.  So, if the same content were
going to be blocked for all users in Utah, and if porn sites could somehow
be prevented from operating in Utah, a monopoly transit proivder for all
Utah ISPs with a big porn blocking firewall in front of it might do the
trick.  I hear it works in Saudi Arabia...

But in this case, Utah hasn't chosen to use China or Saudi Arabia as its
model, nor have they copied the first round of attempts at this sort of
thing by various US states, which tended to give ISPs the burden of
figuring out whether packets flowing through their network were
"indecent" and imposed requirements on people in other states.  I suspect
this will make Utah different enough that a lot of national networks will
decide it's not worth doing business there.  But for Utah-focused ISPs who
can figure out how to make a firewall or proxy server speak the same
protocol as the state-run database, this should be an opportunity to
charge higher prices in the face of reduced competition.  This seems like
something that could be implemented on a per-user basis with a little bit
of policy based routing.

Is it a good idea?  Certainly not.  Is it legal?  I hope not.  But is it
so badly conceived as to be unimplementable if it ever gets to the
enforcement stage?  I don't think so.


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