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JANET Acceptable Use

Alistair Chalmers

Alistair was unable to be at the workshop and his paper was presented by Derek Law. This paper is based on a combination of Alistair's slides and Derek 's comments.

Acceptable use policy has several originating strands. The first is now only important in terms of constantly reminding the world at large - especially the commercial world - that JANET is not subsidised, but reflects the ability of higher education to achieve discounted prices through bulk purchase. This was accepted initially on the basis that such use would be to a restricted group.

Secondly, all networks have AUPs and there was a need to have some conformity with our peer networks.

Thirdly, we had to be able to satisfy funding bodies - and indeed the National Audit Office - that all the expenditure was to the benefit of higher education and that there was no cross subsidy of other groups whether in the public or private sector. The ability to prevent free loading remains a significant concern.

However, there is going to be a change of emphasis in acceptable use which will in essence open the network to all groups - provided that they pay the full cost of connection to the network - I repeat, to the network rather than the site. This does not imply any change in those who may connect as of right. The eligibility rules remain and are essentially those directly connected with the UK HE community.

Peer networking remains a problem area but we are attempting to put suitable arrangements in place. We know that traffic which cannot be directly connected to JANET has been able to get in the back door often via a transatlantic link. There are too many networks out there with too many diffuse purposes. We are therefore persevering with peer agreements with the larger network operators where sensible links to JANET can be made.

Let me now turn to the acceptable use policy. Many of you will have noticed in the weekend press the arrest of an American student who had posted a particularly nasty sexual fantasy to alt.sex_stories. The fact that similar material is readily available in published paperback is neither here nor there. And so we have a draft to which you should pay attention since quite apart from the sort of juvenile pornography which goes around, universities dabble in all sorts of areas ranging from animal experiments, to comparative religion to studies of race which someone will find offensive. So, JANET may be used for any legal activity, except:

Exclusion 1:

"use of the network to propagate material that is grossly offensive, indecent or of a menacing nature, or material intended to misinform and thereby cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another"

This exclusion is the most difficult of all. The key words here are probably propagate, grossly and intended. It seems to me inescapable that sites must expect to police this kind of activity to some extent. In particular web servers, unlike say electronic mail, have a quasi-permanent existence which we may reasonably expect institutions to police. Institutions will have to move quite quickly, I believe, to put some regulation in place which protects everyone.

Exclusion 2:

"use ... to propagate unsolicited material either to organisations directly connected to other networks - e.g. commercial advertising and promotions; however it is acceptable to place such material on, for example, bulletin board systems connected to JANET, subject to the agreement of any management involved. Similarly, it is acceptable to publish material to an electronic mail list, provided that the material is related to the intended use of the list."

Exclusion 2 represents our first nudge towards the commercialisation of the network. Although billed as an exclusion, this actually allows inclusion of some forms of advertising, but under a carefully controlled regimen.

Exclusion 3:

"deliberate unauthorised access to facilities or services accessible via JANET"

Exclusion 3 is fairly straightforward and is aimed at preventing things like non-BIDS sites connecting to that service.

Exclusion 4:

"deliberate activities with the following characteristics:

Exclusion 4 is, I think a slight softening of the rules. You will of course all know that JANET may not be used for social chit-chat and that such listserv groups as Mornington Crescent (who do nothing but play that game) should not exist. This becomes wasting resources, a much looser concept which most of us can however comprehend.

Wasting staff time is probably the worst crime since there are so few of them and they really represent a valuable resource. And of course corrupting other users data is almost too terrible to contemplate - but in an increasingly competitive and irrational world it's no longer almost unthinkable.

This is followed by a list of other fairly obvious sins. Although here again the difference between network acceptable use and the law is interesting. Then of course at the end we have the catch-all

These are all fairly general concerns so let me now particularise on the problems of web servers, where the major concern is much less to do with acceptable use and much more with the voracious consumption of resources. This is especially true of international traffic where everyone seems to follow the same broad pathways, which are now becoming traffic Jams.

The sub-committees of the JISC are now beginning to turn their attention both to the growth in this traffic and to the appearance of network hotspots. Bandwidth has been significantly increased this session, but we do not want to spend money on helping everyone to fool around making needless connections. We want to spend the money on research and on network content rather than on telecomms costs. There then seem to be three serious options and a small group is beginning to work on these. Charging for international access may have to come and now that charging for JANET itself has been approved this will not be difficult to push through. A similar effect could be achieved through rationing, but I at least am reluctant to see this happening when we are trying to stimulate all sorts of groups to maximise network use. Thirdly comes caching, whether nationally or locally, and this is something I would like to see developed strongly.

We may also need to develop some self regulatory mechanisms such as better self regulation and minimising the distribution of inessential graphics and sound. I hope that you will spend time tomorrow looking at this issue. The Web is a splendid and attractive development but it is beginning to develop and sprawl in a way which invites punitive controls.

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