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Panama Decrees Block To Kill VoIP Service 461

Posted by timothy
from the what-part-of-free-market-don't-you-understand dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In an apparent attempt to stem telephone company revenue losses due to Internet telephony, the government of Panama has decreed that 46 UDP ports be blocked by all Internet service providers. The ports include ones that are commonly used for voice over IP as well as some that are used for other purposes, apparently with the idea that these, too, could be used to circumvent the POTS (plain old telephone system, a term of art) in making telephone calls."
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Panama Decrees Block To Kill VoIP Service

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  • Different Ports (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hoagieslapper (593527) <hoagieslapper@gmail.com> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:35PM (#4591918)
    How difficult could it be to write some software to use VoIP on port 80 or some other commonly used port?
    • Not hard at all... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Da VinMan (7669) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:46PM (#4591987)
      In fact, I think it would be a piece of cake to cobble together a proxy server that did just that. The clients wouldn't even have to change their software other than to point to the intermediate proxy server.

      The problem here though comes in talking to the rest of the world. The above-mentioned servers have to direct the traffic to the destination servers at some point. Those servers are completely outside the control of the subversives to be. Those servers have to know that the traffic being received is actually VoIP and deal with it appropriately.

      It can be done, but it will require servers outside of Panama to cooperate with the scheme.

      Of course, once the Panama government locates those sites (shouldn't be hard) they'll start gopher whacking them with a variety of tactics: legal shutdowns through warrants, DOS attacks, etc. Vendors from outside of Panama will also rush to fill the void, and that software will also subsequently be outlawed.

      The bottom line though is that the government will not be able to control the VoIP "problem" entirely without just pulling the plug on all Internet activity. That would be a steep price and they will face economic pressure to not do it.

      Oh well, they'll learn this one the hard way I guess.
      • by LarsG (31008) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:57PM (#4592041) Journal
        The bottom line though is that the government will not be able to control the VoIP "problem" entirely without just pulling the plug on all Internet activity.

        Too true.

        I'm actually more worried about collateral damage here - if the news report is correct then any traffic passing _through_ Panama would be subject to the filters - stopping any application that just happens to use one of the ports mentioned.
        • by F.Prefect (98101) on Monday November 04, 2002 @02:43AM (#4592845) Homepage
          any traffic passing _through_ Panama would be subject to the filters

          Although realistically this is unlikely to be a problem for any significant percentage of Net traffic. Topologically, Panama is most probably a spur on the Internet, rather than a hub. Most of the western hemisphere's traffic passes through the US west coast on its way to anywhere. By the time a given packet hits Panama, I'd lay good odds its actually bound for an endpoint in Panama.

      • by rodgerd (402) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:02PM (#4592064) Homepage
        You've kind of missed the key point, though: once it starts becoming harder and requiring more knowledge to do it, the phone company will be safe again. The danger comes from pervasive, easy to use VoIP services which anyone can use. If the decree can drive it back to the point where only a few geeks are doing VoIP it's all a success for the telco.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        corkscrew [freshmeat.net] allready provides a tunnel over port 80, all you need to do is configure gnomeeting to use port 80, then you have secure VOIP over the mostly web port.

        The only way for them to stop VOIP, is to shut down EVERY PORT!

        --Benjamin McFree is one cool dude

      • by bigsteve@dstc (140392) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:06PM (#4592090)
        The bottom line though is that the government will not be able to control the VoIP "problem" entirely without just pulling the plug on all Internet activity. That would be a steep price and they will face economic pressure to not do it.

        If the Panamanian government gets serious about this, they could put a stop to VoIP by making it illegal to use VoIP in Panama. Many countries have done this kind of thing in the past. In the UK 20 or so years ago, it was not possible to set up a public internet because of government rules.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Just use UDP port 53. I'd like to see Panama try to block that one.
        • by dknj (441802)
          RFC 1035 [rfc-editor.org]

          The Internet supports name server access using TCP [RFC-793] on server port 53 (decimal) as well as datagram access using UDP [RFC-768] on UDP port 53 (decimal).

          -dk
      • by lostchicken (226656) on Monday November 04, 2002 @12:17AM (#4592375)
        If TCP became a problem, I'd be happy to sell them a raft of these [sears.com] to take care of all their problems...
    • Re:Different Ports (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rusty0101 (565565) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:49PM (#4592001) Homepage Journal
      port 80 as used for http is a tcp port, not a udp port.

      Some of the protocols that will eventually have to be blocked as a result include tftp, whois++, bootp/dhcp, ntp, udp portions of netbios, snmp (ISPs and large businesses, including the phone company, will love that one.) hsrp, (another favorite of large businesses) quake, traceroute, both MySQL and Postgres, and a few others that may not have tcp vairents, or who's tcp varients are too expensive in network bandwidth to use politely.

      Additionally, there is nothing preventing users from building a ppp, ssh, httptunnel or other tunnel over tcp and completely bypassing the UDP blocks from their workstation. It may even become a part of the software for DialPad or other platforms.

      -Rusty
      • Re:Different Ports (Score:5, Insightful)

        by agentZ (210674) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:55PM (#4592036)
        Additionally, there is nothing preventing users from building a ppp, ssh, httptunnel or other tunnel over tcp and completely bypassing the UDP blocks from their workstation. It may even become a part of the software for DialPad or other platforms.

        It could, but there's a reason why they avoided TCP in the first place. For phone calls, it doesn't matter if the data gets there two seconds after it was sent (ie. the reliable communication offered by TCP.) The data needs to get there now, or not at all. It's okay to have a quarter-second drop in a phone call.

        I also worry that the computational overhead of these protocols, especially ssh, could be problematic for a real-time communication. But hey, processors are getting better all the time...
      • Re:Different Ports (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Zocalo (252965)
        port 80 as used for http is a tcp port, not a udp port

        True. But there is no reason why you couldn't run your VoIP system on UDP:80. A better bet though would be to choose UDP:53, provided that the remote end wasn't also running DNS of course. They'd have a fun time if they tried to firewall off *that* particular UDP port on their "great fireall of Panama". ;)

    • Re:Different Ports (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mister Transistor (259842) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:18PM (#4592155) Journal
      It's already been done. The VoIP software "Fobbit Fone" is public domain or shareware, I can't remember which - freely available, anyway... It works with the Creative VoIP blaster and one of the configuration settings is to use TCP only and you pick the port. It uses port 80 (normal HTTP) for initial access, then goes to the same port as it normally would but uses TCP instead of UDP if configured that way. I'm using it sucessfully TCP only because I'm lazy and only wanted to turn on one port in my firewall :) Seriously, it does make it easier to connect through a firewall when using TCP only. In fact that software is the only choice if you are behind a firewall, as the stock Creative Labs driver and UI software doesn't work at all thru the firewall.
    • Re:Different Ports (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ron Bennett (14590)
      With more ISP restrictions, filters, etc on various ports, we seem to be moving towards a one port internet where most everything is sent over HTTP via port 80 (also https 443).

      HTTP works great for webpages, but using it for everything in the longrun is bad for everyone for numerous reasons.

      What happens when VoIP is widely done via port 80 - what are they going do then?...block port 80...I don't think so!

      Ron Bennett
    • by billstewart (78916) on Monday November 04, 2002 @12:51AM (#4592532) Journal
      There are *lots* of things wrong with H.323, including its relationship to a bunch of baroque badly designed ISDN signalling protocols which don't look much like Internet approaches to problem-solving. (SIP is rather better-behaved.) One of the most critical problems is the lack of encryption, leaving the whole system open to eavesdroppers, with or without warrants. In this case, the obvious right choice is to use ipsec to tunnel the VOIP traffic, which takes care of C&W's anti-competitiveness as well as taking care of most wiretappers. (You can't stop all the wiretappers, because the telco side of the interface is still tappable, but it reduces many of the opportunities.)


      It's not perfect - Compressed RTP does a CSLIP-like elimination of most of the IP, UDP, and rTP overhead, but doesn't work over IPSEC or most other tunneling protocols.) That means bandwidth is pretty tight over 28.8-upstream dialup modems (especially if you don't always get full speed), but I'm not aware of any better tunneling solutions.
      It'd be nice to have some tradeoffs like putting more than one voice sample per IP packet, which is not so hot for quality but cuts the packet overhead in half, and the protocols *ought* to have encryption as a standard feature, so you don't need tunneling for the general case, but it's a good start.

  • by SargeZT (609463) <pshanahan@mn.rr.com> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:35PM (#4591920) Homepage
    Banning VoIP? Whats next? Possibly banning email to help the USPS?
    • ...and in related news tonight, the government of Panama has decided to block the Panama Canal. Apparently, they are 'concerned' about contact with the outside world, and they want to stop this threat to their national sovereignty immediately.
    • Banning VoIP? Whats next? Possibly banning email to help the USPS?

      Yes, what's next, steel tariffs or something? Nah, that'll never happen.
  • by Nicopa (87617) <nico...lichtmaier@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:36PM (#4591924)
    There are 65534 other ports wich can be used for VoIP, they must block them too!
  • by j1mmy (43634) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:38PM (#4591945) Journal
    Please adapt.
  • by XJoshX (103447) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:39PM (#4591949) Journal

    People have tried to fight progressive technological evolution for ages and it has yet to ever work once. Any country making laws forcing its citizens to live behind the times is only hurting itself. What if panama had outlawed the original telephone because it hurt the post office? Granted, Voice IP isn't quite as drastic a step, but it is progress and it will succeed on its own merit, laws or no laws.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There is no money to be made in telecommunication in the long run if technology runs its course. Or at least it is going to gross millions instead of billions. In that situation even the remnants of the industry remaining today would largely have to collapse.

      The industry is too big and too rich to go down without a fight, in Panama this results in naively blatant intervention. In the US the telecom industry will probably pair up with the content industry to outlaw private private peer to peer broadband communication sooner or later, under the guise of security and copyright protection. Only a monopoly or a price fixed ogliopoly will be able to squeeze money out of people on the same scale as today for communications in the future ... with Bush's soft stance on monopolies the time is ripe to bring the US a couple of steps closer to corporatism, and after that the WTO and globalization can take it on a world tour, and the combined bribing power of the content and the telecommunication industry might just be the force which can accomplish it.
    • I'd like to think this couldn't happen here (in the USA)... but, I really think it could with p2p.

    • I don't think it's about fighting evolution -- it's just about delaying it for as long as possible. They have an existing monopoly and every day they stretch it out the money continues to pour in.

      Another example: the record companies know that every year they can delay the widespread adoption of file-sharing technologies is another year they can freely suck the blood out of the american public. They can't stop it in the long run, but they have a huge financial incentive to slow it down.
  • Port change... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dvk (118711) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:40PM (#4591956) Homepage
    I'm not sure what they decided the competition would be...
    If person2person chat programs with voice capabilities, then whoever provides the software (I know Yahoo messenger and ICQ can do that, although it's not VoIP) should be able to make it switch ports easily.
    If companies (such as the one I use to call Russia if/when I ever do :) - then the company can easily change ports on its system too - it's not like anything is using some sort of public infrastructure which is all set to UDP port 46 (like, say, you could actually break mail by blocking port 25, I suppose, because any mail transport depends on gazilion computers listening on 25, and not only sender/reciever pairs).

    Or is my logic flawed somewhere and the port block like that would achieve the desired effect?

    Cheers,
    DVK

  • by Quirk (36086) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:41PM (#4591960) Homepage Journal
    The Panamania Government has decreed all citizens are to wear tin foil hats to block telepathic circumvention of POTS.
  • by CatWrangler (622292) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:42PM (#4591963) Journal
    Ok. Everybody gets wired up. Everybody learns that it is cheaper to make calls over the internet. What exactly do the phone companies do then? You can't exactly ask them to follow the Linux model.

    The obvious solution is going to be a transmission tax on VoIP calls. Cheaper than the old way, but it will begin to cost you money. Hate them you might, but the phone companies have real expenses in physical property, technical services, and customer service. They need to get paid. It will be less than they are used to, but they won't be giving it away for free much longer.

    • VoIP is just standard IP traffic. The obvious solution is to charge more for Internet access, and more probably charging per amount of volume. If standard voice traffic dies off over time, too bad. The telephone companies are charging for the infrastructure of the net anyways. Let them make their money by charging for that.
    • by sammaytg1 (608758) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:00PM (#4592057)
      Your logic seems flawed to me. When you make a call using voip you totally bypass the phone comapny. YOu aren't costing them anything. THis is like saying that it's wrong to listen to indie band because the riia spent money on the latest release. THe phone companies time ma have come. Just because they were the only way to make calls 30 years ago doesn't mean that now. If voip is a beter alternitive for the people(sound quality and realibilty in exchange for cost) then good for them.
      • how do you bypass the phone company if the phone company is the one providing you the ability to connect to the internet?

        unlike japan and the usa and a few other countries not too many places are getting net connections from high speed cable. hell I live in the usa and I don't get my net from cable.

        the phone companies at some point always figure in your ability to communicate with anyone over wire. they do have shit to pay for.

        their business model really needs to change as one poster suggested to providing high speed net access but that doesn't mean that right now they aren't concerned about lost revenue to VoIP.

        as for your simile it really doesn't hold up. the RIAA doesn't provide the infrastrcuture for me to listen to indie bands. the phone company does, however, provide the infrastructure for me to respond to your post. between me and you there is a telco.
    • by bogie (31020) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:05PM (#4592083) Journal
      Adapt or die. There is no rule that states established businesses get to do business "the old" forever. If a better cheaper way of doing things comes along, oh well, tough cookies. There were once a lot of blacksmiths as well. So to the phone companies I say, Adapt or Die, better yet just die.
    • Volume charging, most likely. This is the norm in most of the world.
    • The obvious solution is going to be a transmission tax on VoIP calls.

      This is about the dumbest thing I've heard in a few days. No. The solution is for POTS to die. Telcos can switch their services over to simply providing everyone with highspeed wired internet.

      They need to get paid.

      They can get paid for doing something worthwhile. Not charging for bits to a particular port because their old business model won't support them. Who comes up with this crap? There's no "right to profit" in the Constitution or any other law. Why do you think the dot-com bust happened? If one business model becomes unsustainable, you move or get trampled.

    • by Spy Hunter (317220) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:16PM (#4592144) Journal
      What are you talking about? You pay for internet access. If the phone companies can't make enough money off of providing Internet access to pay for the access itself, then *that* is the problem. Internet access costs should go up. Specifically charging for VoIP is the Wrong Thing to do.

      I fear that in the future the Internet will actually move this way. You want to use Kazaa? Pay a per-hour fee for the privilege. You want to use VoIP? Pay per call. This would kill innovation in Internet services. Would P2P have ever developed if this kind of infrastructure was already in place? No, nobody would have been able to use it because of limits on what they could send over the Internet. The whole point of the Internet is that it is this great 2-way communication medium with nearly infinite possibilities and no limits on what kind of information can travel on it. When you limit what can be transmitted to a few well-known protocols you kill that. Firewalls have already done enough damage to innovation on the Internet. I don't want to be using HTTP to browse HTML webpages served by media conglomerates and POP3 to read the same old e-mail 10 years from now just because ISPs have become complacent and not allowed anything new to develop. I want to be using Freenet and Jabber and other protocols that haven't even been invented yet.

    • They get into ADSL and other broadband (monopoly or near monopoly) solutions. That way they still get money from their customers for the broadband connection.

      Truth is; long distance is now very cheap anyway, and getting cheaper all the time- the fiber systems have seen to that. Besides; voice traffic is already in the minority for of traffic worldwide as a percentage of bits carried, soon it will be basically an irrelevancy cost wise.

    • The problem is that a clever person can easily disguise the fact that they're using VoIP. If it is enough of a problem that the POTS is collapsing, there must be a big financial incentive for panamanians to use VoIP. Enough to develop and use circumvention measures, probably.

      Tools like stunnel are readily available over the net. If crypto is illegal down there, it would be pretty easy to make a steganographic wrapper that would make the connection appear to a casual observer to be an ftp session, say. More sophisticated methods could be used to make it hard to detect the fact that there is a connection at all.

      The only real solution thus is to drop LD prices and/or raise internet access prices. Or to sharply limit uploading speed/latency to a level where VoIP would be unacceptably bad.

  • The old adage says that the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. While we may not be able to call into Panama using VoIP, will transnational calls that used to go through there be routed around?
    • by xean (443223) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:53PM (#4592023) Journal
      What this article really demonstrates - and it's something that has been demonstrated before on countless occasions - and that is that most governments of the world believe the internet is something tangible and easilly controllable.

      This has been demonstrated here in Australia with the federal goverments push to sensor content and make ISP's liable for content that is served up from their service.

      It's been demonstrated by the Chineese government with their sensorship and blocking of sites like google.

      It has been shown by the USA's government in their restriction of encryption technology export.

      All of these things are easilly worked around by even the most non techsavvy user.

      Those of us who understand what the internet is and how it works understand that this sort of filtering will not work. These type sof things just show that until governments actually gain an understanding of the things they are trying to control they will continue to make fools of themselves. (btw: I'm surprised they dont want to block tcp ports 25, 110 & 143 (smtp,pop,imap) as people might send electronic mail rather than using the snail mail service).

  • In the decree, the Panamanian government requires "that within 5 days of publication, all ISPs will block the 46 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."

    After this kind of crap, I don't think I'd have any problem with them blocking UDP 53.

  • ...some banana republic adventurism!

    Heck, maybe it'll tide us over until Iraq War II debuts in January.
  • by Polo (30659) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:48PM (#4591996) Homepage
    I would assume that there will soon be:

    VODNSOIP
    VOHTTPOIP
    VOICMP

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2002 @10:50PM (#4592008)

    Example: I buy a new tool. It is a clawhammer. For some reason, this deprives the company making nail removers of money, especially considering their old nail removers were overpriced.

    So, the government affiliated nail remover maker goes and makes buying clawhammers illegal.

    This is immoral. You can't just rent-a-law because your overpriced technology is being smashed by a preferrable alternative.

    I mean, just because you can buy laws (ie: riaa), doesn't mean it should be allowed to happen..
    • Well, it's more like if the government would make it mandatory for hardware stores to remove the claw of the clawhammers... pretty silly. O
    • by PerryMason (535019) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:23PM (#4592169)
      Yes it immoral, but thats just the way that capitalism 'works'. The same story is being played out all over the world in nations of varying technological advancement. Big business has developed a hold over government to the extent that in many many cases, the outdated or inferior technology becomes government sanctioned and the opposition becomes if not outlawed, then at least severely hampered in its development.

      This is a situation which, IMHO, will only increase as we see massive values for companies being created overnight (in business terms) for IT related products which are _bound_ to become outdated in a matter of a few years. For the lucky few like MS, they were able to get the wealth early, buy the politicians and can now sit back and reap the rewards. For anyone in competition, the barrier to entry just got a whole lot higher. Not only do you need a better product, but you need a spare billion dollars to throw at Capital Hill.

      Gotta love that combination of capitalism and 'democracy'.
      • Yes it immoral, but thats just the way that capitalism 'works'.

        This is not called capitalism. It's called corruption.

      • thats just the way that capitalism 'works'

        No, this is an example of goverment interference in a capatalistic society. Perhaps it is correct to say that this is how elected (some might say corrupt) government (such as the US has) works.

        The capatalist thing to do is to let companies that cannot respond to new technologies and markets die a natural death while new companies take their place.

        Unfortunately this means that people will be displaced from jobs, and they must be willing to learn new things in order to be employable at new positions. People don't like this, they want to just stay doing the same old thing forever, so they get their elected officials to try to maintain the status quo.

        In the end it will result in stifling of new technologies and that country will ultimately pay a price.
    • Er, Ok, I'll take you up on this.

      Say I'm your government affiliated nail remover company, and I employ 25% of the domestic population. Your foreign clawhammer company is coming in and creating unemployment, destroying jobs, and generally upsetting my (admittedly backwards) economy. I go to outlaw clawhammers so my populace can remain employed (and pay taxes). Should that "not be allowed to happen"?

      Say I'm a large automaker with higher overhead than my foreign competition because of worker safety laws and my contractual obligations to the various unions I work with. I'm damned well going to lobby the government to add tariffs to foreign cars to level the playing field. Should that "not be allowed to happen"?

      Say I'm a large US distributor of alcohol and I want to spend some money to make sure that my main competitor, marijuana, remains illegal. Should that "not be allowed to happen"?

      Finally, if you're still supporting the implied-passive-voice "should not be allowed to happen", how about we take it out of passive voice. *By Who*?

      You think the UN, or maybe the US, should invade countries because they have different economic ideas than us?

      It's not immoral. It is economically unsound. And there's no force in the world with the moral authority to tell Panama (or anyone else) that they have to see things our way.

      You imply that this kind of thing "should not be allowed to happen" -- I say the free market "will not allow this to happen." There's no moral judgement to be made here. The free (or relatively free) market will speak, and that's that. No sense getting your panties in a twist. And you know what? The manner in which it does happen may just be educational to all of us.

      Cheers
      -b
  • the government of Panama has decreed that 46 UDP ports be blocked by all Internet service providers.

    That's unbelievable!... that it happened in Panama before America.
  • ... the rest of the Internet could simply not route any traffic to Panama, all to assist them in controlling the evils of VoIP. That would make sure the telcos survive as it would ensure they are the only option for communication with the outside world.

    Who's with me?

  • #ifdef __PANAMA__
    #define VOIP_PORT 80
    #endif
  • by 3-State Bit (225583) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:00PM (#4592055)
    the U.S., as well as many other countries, already do, albeit in a different industry. When the U.S. says: "You, as a citizen, are not allowed to circumvent insuring your automobile, say by having infinity cash [sic] that you're willing to use to pay for any damages that you might inflict, but must go through a PRIVATE, government regulated insurance agency in order to use the public roads..."
    Except for satellite and other wireless communications, ALL VoIP in Panama (as elsewhere) goes through wires that sit on the Government's land (that would be everything). If I can't use a public road except by playing by the rules of regulated private companies, (even if I know of a cheaper alternative), why should Panamians be allowed to use data lines going through public land, except by playing by the rules of a regulated private company?

    Okay, that's the most contrived example I could think of. I don't think there's a closer equivalent -- some candidates were Edison (the electric company) - run public schools (look it up -- but you're not required to go to one, since you can homeschool) and private appraisals mandated in certain cases by the government.

    Anyway, uh, yeah, HOW DARE THEY.
    • by rc-flyer (20492) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:05PM (#4592086)
      Actually, you're wrong. If you have enough cash and can prove it (by posting a bond for example), in many states you can avoid purchasing insurance. Essentially, you are self-insuring yourself. Whether that is a smart thing to do is another question entirely.
    • small picky point (Score:4, Informative)

      by zogger (617870) on Monday November 04, 2002 @12:50AM (#4592519) Homepage Journal
      --side issue here. You CAN do an indemnity personal bond for car insurance, just most people don't and it's little known about. It's also expensive, goes by state minimum liabilites, and you'd of course want more than those minimums any more with the cost of cars and people in the hospital, etc, but if you got it you can do it and keep your wealth unless it's needed by your proven negligence.

      Got a neighbor periodically goes to panama for his oil business stuff, he sez the government there is roughly equivalent to say chicago in corruption levels, ie, total top to bottom. I imagine them mucking with the internet only applies to peons, that if you are at least a semi connected fatcat and pay the correct bribes you can do whatever you want, but at that level you could afford long distance so the point is moot. Most (not al, generally speaking here of course) civil laws in regards to anything but fraud in it's various forms more or less exist to protect the already wealthy's status quo. No different here than in panama, not really.

      I'll give you an example I am running into locally here where I live. I'm in the market for a small piece of property to have a home on. My income level for this would be in the uber cheap range. Anywho, this county a few years ago decided on a minimun acreage size for new homes, 1.5 acres. Well, ok, fine and dandy..... trouble is, for the decades preceding this, they "allowed" smaller than that to be deeded up as lots and now exist in undeveloped abundance by the hundreds or thousands really, like 1.1 acre, etc. These lots are now useless except for growing weeds and trees, people are stuck with them now, no one wants to buy them, you can't do anything with them, but they are still taxed. This benefits the more recent richer arrivals who took the county over(lotta cash under the table money gets spread into country government is the popular notion) and don't want it to be farming/light manufacturing, they want it to be yet another yuppie retirement/second home vacation place.

      Poorer people are untermenschen here, you can WORK here, but they would rather you to live over real far away some other place and commute, please go home at quitting time, no riff raff. It sucks but that's another example of a civil statute enforced by their bureaucrats and hired badged mercenaries to benefit the more wealthy.
  • by sakusha (441986) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:02PM (#4592063)
    On the positive side, this should kill the Windows Messenger popup spams, which propagate over UDP ports.
    On the negative side, it will kill Quicktime, which needs UDP ports for negotiating a connection.
  • by tim0thy (585890) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:02PM (#4592067)
    In an apparent attempt to stem telephone company revenue losses due to Internet telephony, the government of Panama has decreed that 46 UDP ports be blocked by all Internet service providers.

    The ports include ones that are commonly used for voice over IP as well as some that are used for other purposes, apparently with the idea that these, too, could be used to circumvent the POTS (plain old telephone system, a term of art) in making telephone calls.

    In the decree, the Panamanian government requires "that within 5 days of publication, all ISPs will block the 46 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 46 UDP ports blocked."

    The significance of the government action affects areas far beyond that nation. Due to its geographical location, numerous undersea cables connect in the country, making it a substantial hub for international IP traffic.

    Among the services that are to be disrupted are NetMeeting, Dialpad, and Net2phone, which labels itself "communication without borders," a claim which apparently will no longer be true if one of those borders is Panamanian or communication is between two countries whose IP traffic passes through Panama.

    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.

    The UDP ports involved 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.

    The decree was published October 25.

    Among the services that employ some of those ports are "nlockmgr," the NFS lock manager responsible for rpc.statd and rpc.lockd, which in turn are responsible for crash recovery functions for locked files and for processing file locking requests, respectively; telnet; and numerous VoIP services.

    In addition to those who wish to save on their phone bills, the government order blocks the perfectly lawful use of those ports by businesses that have legitimate VoIP applications allowed in the country.

    There were reports late Sunday that Panamanian ISPs were planning a demonstration aimed at exhibiting their displeasure with the government action.
  • by uncleFester (29998) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:03PM (#4592068) Homepage Journal
    Out of simple curiosity, I plugged 'panama phone company' [google.com] into Google.. after all, what could this little pissant country have in the way of phone companines? And what are the first two links to pop up?

    Privatization - Phone Company: [alphaluz.com] and A Case of Privatization Gone Wrong: Panama's Wires Crossed [worldpress.org]. Perhaps this is the start of some revenue-generating stunt to pull some dumbass decision-maker's ass out of a fire somewhere?

    -fester (capt. conspiracy?)

    ps.. I'm sure Panamanians by and large dislike this as well.. the 'pissant' is directed at the governmental representation of Panama, which right now looks suspiciously like a boil on someone's ass.
  • This is crazy. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fearincontrol (622152)
    This ranks up with the CBDTPA as the most absurd legislation of the twentieth century. There are so many loopholes around this law it's stupid, not to mention the fact that banning a port to try and stop any certain service is stupid -- as has been pointed out, it's not exactly amazingly difficult to change the port used by the program. *clap clap* I think Panama secretly elected GWB. This is exactly the kind of ignorant decision he's famous for.
  • by anto (41846) <ajw AT pobox DOT com> on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:06PM (#4592089) Homepage Journal

    People have been saying for years we need transparent encryption of internet connections (OK mabee I've been saying it) Once 'important' countries like Panama start playing routing games like this it becomes even more important.

    Such heavy handed actions might be just what projects like FreeSwan [freeswan.org] need to get more universal acceptance. That all being said does anyone honestly belive that panama will be able to block *all* UDP traffic, while they are at it is might be a good idea to block ICMP and TCP - both of which could potentially carry voice data as well.

  • by Augusto (12068) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:10PM (#4592109) Homepage
    This is very embarassing, but not a surprise.

    This is yet another example of our British friends at Cable & Wireless adapting to the local culture of the country which they're sucking the blood out of. They obviously have quickly learned the Panamenian way of politics and have paid off all the necessary politicians, which can often be bought very cheap.

    Cable & Wireless is privatization gone totally wrong. The previous phone company was a government owned company called INTEL, and Cable & Wireless beat US GTE and took over the phone system of Panama. The results have been horrible.

    Local calls in Panama used to be like in the US, you paid your minimal fee and could talk all the minutes you wanted. Cable & Wireless brought the wonderful European model of paying for each minute for local calls.

    If that wasn't enough, they also charge you per minute (I think) for calls from a land line phone in your house to a cell phone. That is, you pay for calling a cell phone and the person on the cell phone pays too. I had to find this the hard way after making a few calls to some friends from my grandmothers house.

    So, people are fed up with them, and the internet savy are using Voice over IP a lot. I used to receive a lot of calls from a cousing over dialpad.com (when it was free). This was the ideal system to make a call to the US, dialpad was for US calls only, but the funny thing is that this worked great if you lived in another country.

    Here's a good article on the whole mess Cable & Wireless is creating;

    A Case of Privatization Gone Wrong - [worldpress.org]
    Panama's Wires Crossed
    • by bastion_xx (233612) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:41PM (#4592244)
      Cable & Worthless has done this in other portions of the Caribbean too. Basically they will land fiber of put up the satellite up/downlink infrastructure, but in turn, require a monopoly on all international communications (assuming there is a local telco provider). Normally, savvy governments will get a percentage of the profits. Or even more "esoteric" monetary "arrangements" like the Cayman government had in place a few years back.

      The good news is that the move towards packet based services (i.e., the Internet) has thrown a kink in their business model.

      In Bermuda, a local ISP started offering VoIP back in 2000 on a DS3 provisioned into the US. Per minute charges via C&W: $1.10/minute. VoIP: $0.40/minute. Quality? A fuckload better on average than C&W. Now that the ISP has enabled SS7 for true 1+ dialing, the other traditional carriers have had to reduce prices.

      Once the service was made available to the public, they were then threatened with termination of the DS3 by the submarine cable provider (not C&W, although they were in on trying to regulate out the use of VoIP except by the international carriers).

      It was even worse when C&W mandated no other fiber systems could be brought into a country. They could set pricing on voice and data cicuits to milk the subscribers. Back in 96' a DS1 (T1) from Bermuda to NYC ran $85K... a month. Now it's down to a reasonable $17-22K/month (rack rate).

      Sorry for the rant, but I had a bad week with C&W. Dropped a production frame circuit and when calling the Bermuda NOC I was told that it was a US problem and to call them (altough I contract and pay the Bermuda office). US had dropped our email addresses (all 5 of them) from the announcement emails they send out. Some good service for over $100K per year in circuits.

      Grrrrrrr.
    • I lived in the Cayman Islands for 3 years and had to get used to the meter is running feeling on the phone. The Cayman Islands brags about being advanced and has the highest Fax machines per capita of any nation. It's the sad reality that voice mail hell and getting on hold is just a waste of money, so they just fax everything instead. The other thing not mentioned is 800 service is blocked also. A free call has a terrible long distance fee tacked on for the caller. Anything I bought with free phone support, wasn't.
      Unfortunately I lived there when Windows 95 came out. I got a copy in Miami (legal) and installed it on my machine. At the install, it couldn't find the CD drive or sound card after the first reboot. The 800 number was just too expensive at about 1.50 US per minute. I went back to Win 3.1 for the duration of my stay and installed 95 2 years later when I moved back and got real support. It would have been much more than the price of the software to spend a couple hours on a free 800 number on hold for tech support.
  • by Doktor Memory (237313) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:12PM (#4592130) Journal
    ...the more they stay the same. The third-world telco monopolies have been fighting a similar battle against long distance "callback" companies [wired.com] for over five years now, and for the most part they've been losing badly. They've known for a while that VoIP services were the next big threat, but it doesn't look like they have any better idea how to deal with them.

    One detail that usually gets left out of these articles, though: the "local third world telco monopoly" is not in any way a homegrown Panamanian entity. No, the citizens of Panama, like most of their neighbors in the carribean, are getting royally screwed by our dear friends at Cable and Wireless. [americasnetwork.com]
  • I bet this is really just an elaborate plan by the phone companies in panama. They probably brived a few lawmakers into passing the law, as is often the case in third world countries. However this is so exagerated that I wouln't be surprised if this doesn't last too long. I personally see this as a big disrespect to freedom, privacy, civil rights, common sense, innvation, and everything else good that can be fit in between.
  • by Bytal (594494) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:14PM (#4592141) Homepage
    The government of the United States passed a new law prohibiting the manufacturing of internal combustion engines in order to protect the extensive investments of the horse-and-buggy industry against the encroachment of "automobiles". A new 50% tax increase is also planned on the steel and rubber industries as the products of these industries are used extensively in the manufacturing of "automobiles"
    • by g4dget (579145) on Sunday November 03, 2002 @11:33PM (#4592212)
      The US did something worse: they subsidized inefficient transportation in the form of the personal automobile and the required infrastructure to support it. Politicians that must be considered corrupt dismantled public transportation around the country. The result have been urban sprawl and the breakdown of social networks, some of the longest commute times in the world, poor air quality, an unnecessary dependence on foreign oil, and enormous expenses for oil and cars.
    • Almost true... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jetson (176002)
      A new 50% tax increase is also planned on the steel and rubber industries as the products of these industries are used extensively in the manufacturing of "automobiles"

      As funny as you thought that was, it's painfully close to the truth. The U.S. government recently enacted a 38% duty on all soft-wood lumber imports from Canada in order to protect its own lumber industry. Now they expect Canada to supply raw logs for processing south of the border (not to mention cheap electricity with which to process it).

  • For an encore, I'll bet they decide that PI is just 3.14 because no one needs those pesky other digits...

    Indiana tried this [urbanlegends.com] 105 years ago... That will put Panama about the right technological place in time.

    -- Multics

  • Ah. A technical solution to a social problem. I swear, the politicians never learn and never will.
  • So everyone will just blue box. Problem solved :/
  • This is exactly the sort of thing that I expect to push the adoption of IPSEC or another transport level encryption scheme; not the desire to prevent loss of personal information or financial data. Rather than the elimination of eavesdropping, the increased resistance to targeted filtering will be the "killer app" that encourages widespread use of on-by-default encryption by Joe User.
  • by PrimeNumber (136578) <PrimeNumber@exci[ ]com ['te.' in gap]> on Monday November 04, 2002 @12:23AM (#4592400) Homepage
    I lived in the country in the Mid-90s (after Manuel).

    And it once again sounds like the corrupt workings of their ruling junta.

    Typical situations:

    Transito (traffic cops) targetting rich foreigners for some BS violation, so they could receive bribe money. It was so common, that my friends always planned on taking extra cash to pay corrupt traffic cops.

    The railroad system turned over by the US (at the time already "turned over" to the Panamanian govt) which in a few years had became totally non-operational due to local inept management.

    Many reliable stories of gov't for hire (much like the US) where the politicos where bought off, not by campaign contributions, but people bought by large amounts of cash for personal gain.

    All in all the ordinary people of Panama were friendly and had the attitude: oh well it happens, might as well be happy. (Papas e chulatas) Potatoes and bacon. oh well.

    Personally I am surprised the Canal still operates. But one thing most Americans don't realize is that a provision in the treaty stipulates the US can reclaim it if it becomes non-operational. That in my opinion, is the reason the canal hasn't followed the fate of everything else "turned over" and ruined by its corrupt govt.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Monday November 04, 2002 @02:34AM (#4592822) Journal
    We can take this to its natural conclusion today...

    They want to block UDP ports that *can* be used for VOIP? Why not *make* 'em block all UDP and let them find out how screwed that actually leaves them? Wanna see a government backtrack on a previous decision really quick?

    Unless Panama wants to block all web browsing...

    Bear with me while I explain

    UDP is used for VOIP because TCP is a streaming protocol and as such isn't particularly useful for real-time data transmission -- as said by another poster elsewhere, it's preferable to just simply lose a packet every now and then rather than to have the connection pause suddenly while TCP handles congestion control.

    So... what I imagine is this: a system running VOIP listens to a randomly chosen UDP port rather than a specifically chosen one. The exact port to try to connect to is found by connecting to the system via the TCP port 80, and the VOIP system responds to the connection request letting the caller know which UDP port to actually use, and then the TCP connection is closed. The caller can then use the UDP port it was informed about. Since the system can be listening on ANY UDP port, possibly even one that would normally be used for some other well-known service, the government would have no choice but to create a ruling that would unilaterally block all UDP.

    Seriously... I think it would be close to hilarious to see what they would come up with to try to stop that.

  • by rplacd (123904) on Monday November 04, 2002 @03:14AM (#4592914) Homepage
    Panama is, unfortunately, not the only country to try this. Pakistan, for example, has one telco company handling all outgoing internet traffic (telco monopoly until dec 31 2002). They blocked various VoIP sites *and* MSN voice chat last month.
    This was done unilaterally, with support from the supposedly independent telco regulation authority.
    People complained, ISPs took out ads in papers and made press releases about it, and it's now looking like the sites will be unblocked by the end of the week. Hopefully.
  • by z_gringo (452163) <z_gringoNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday November 04, 2002 @07:52AM (#4593476)
    Although John Dvorak was speaking about copyright law when he said this, It still sounds appropriate:

    What's happened, and the point I keep trying to make, is that technology has changed the economics of these industries.

    This is indeed true of teh VOIP scene. What a pathetic lack of understanding of the technology the Panamanian governement has displayed. Many of those ports are just as easily used by many apps that they definately don't want to ban. Exchange Sever is one example, but there are many more.

Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly. - Henry Spencer, University of Toronto Unix hack

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