Muni network ownership and the Fourth

Owen DeLong owen at
Tue Jan 29 22:06:46 UTC 2013

There's a really simple solution to this problem...

Let the muni provide L1/L2 network, and make sure that your L3 usage is
entirely run over encrypted channels between you and your (non-muni)
L3 service provider.

At that point, sure, the muni can see that you sent a lot of packets full of
gibberish back and forth to your ISP. And?


On Jan 29, 2013, at 08:46 , Rob McEwen <rob at> wrote:

> On 1/29/2013 10:59 AM, Jay Ashworth wrote:
>>> From: "Rob McEwen" <rob at>
>>> (C) The fact that the Internet is a series of PRIVATE networks... NOT
>>> owned/operated by the Feds... is a large reason why the 4th amendment
>>> provides such protections... it becomes somewhat of a "firewall" of
>>> protection against Federal gov't trampling of civil liberties... but
>>> if they own the network, then that opens up many doors for them.
>> Regular readers know that I'm really big on municipally owned fiber networks
>> (at layer 1 or 2)... but I'm also a big constitutionalist (on the first, 
>> second, fourth, and fifth, particularly), and this is the first really good
>> counter-argument I've seen, and it honestly hadn't occurred to me.
>> Rob, anyone, does anyone know if any 4th amendment case law exists on muni-
>> owned networks?
> Good question. Here is another thing to consider regarding SOME muni
> network... (at least where private citizens/businesses subscribe to that
> network)
> When any government entity desires log files from an ISP, and if that
> ISP is very protective of their customer's privacy and civil liberties,
> then the ISP typically ONLY complies with the request if there is a
> proper court order, granted by a judge, after "probable cause" of some
> kind of crime has been established, where they are not on a fishing
> expedition. But, in contrast, if the city government owns the network,
> it seems like a police detective contacting his fellow city employee in
> the IT department could easily circumvent the civil liberties
> protections. Moreover, there is an argument that the ISP being stingy
> with such data causes them to be "heros" to the public, and they gain
> DESIRED press and attention when they refuse to comply with such
> requests without a court order. In contrast, the city's IT staff and the
> police detective BOTH share the SAME boss's boss's boss. The IT guy
> won't get a pat on the back for making life difficult for the police
> department. He'll just silently lose his job eventually, or get passed
> up for a promotion. The motivation will be on him to PLEASE his fellow
> city employees, possibly at the expense of our civil liberties.
> PS - of course, no problems here if the quest to gain information
> involves a muni network that is only used by city employees.
> PPS - then again, maybe my "log file example" doesn't apply to the
> particular implementation that Jay described? Regardless, it DOES apply
> to various government implementations of broadband service.
> -- 
> Rob McEwen
> rob at
> +1 (478) 475-9032

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