Cisco's new view of how routers work.

2012-07-04 17:11

You may not know what routers are. Routers are devices which transmit information around, so for instance, if you have three computers, and an Internet connection, somewhere in there you probably have a router. The router is what makes sure that all three computers are able to access the Internet, and that your email ends up on your computer while someone else’s videos end up on theirs. They provide some basic control over data flows and such.

Well. That was the old idea.

Cisco’s new idea is that if the router might be used in any way they disapprove of, that it becomes a brick. So, say they conclude that you are using your Internet for some kind of obscene or pornographic material. They can cut your Internet off because they don’t approve of how you’re using it. Sure, they just talk about killing access to their “service” — but that “service” is the only way you can access, control, or configure your router. Take away the service, the router is just a device for emitting RF radiation to no particular effect. They have backed down from some of their initial plans to require authorization to spy on you and sell information about you if they feel like it, but they haven’t provided any kind of promise that they won’t just add it back later on.

In short: If you are looking at network hardware, consider Cisco/Linksys to be roughly in the same category as Belkin; yo should only get the hardware if “and then it randomly started interfering with my network usage” is an acceptable outcome.

Peter Seebach