This is going to be relatively brief, just given a lack of time on my part (who knew that take 4 grad courses in a term, plus doing personal research, would be so time intensive *grin*). After reading a post by Mark Goldberg over at Telecom Trends I found out that Bell is planning to provide parents with a feature that would let them limit web content that their kids could view online. Given Bell’s history of using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) devices to shape bandwidth use, I wanted to see what the technology they were using to prevent children from accessing particular websites.
Bell is investing in Unipier Ltd.’s Intelligent Policy Manager (IPM). From the whitepaper (links to .pdf) on this particular piece of technology, we find that:
The Intelligent Policy Manager communicates with traffic and content interception and enforcement systems such as: IP level deep packet inspection systems, HTTP and SIP proxies, messaging gateways and 3rd party access gateways. Using these systems to
forward events to the IPM, allows it to apply policies on these events. In addition, the IPM integrates with various networks, BSS and content enablers in order to carry out specific actions such as: charging, sending messages or reformatting a piece of content.
Unipier’s IPM also integrates with back-end subscriber, partner and device repositories in order to fetch relevant context information.
Given that DPI equipment is already being used in Bell facilities, this means that Bell can leverage their existing infrastructure to integrate with the Unipier equipment to maximally limit their children’s access to particular Internet sites. Assuming that the Bell does not have divergent central networking hubs for their mobile and land-based data traffic (and this is an assumption; I can’t be 100% certain whether this is the case or not), it appears as though the Unipier device will allow a uniform rule set to be used to limit Web access to mobile phone users, regardless of the standard they are using to connect to the ‘net (e.g. EDGE, 3G).
While Bell is presently planning on using this technology in their mobile networks, the Unipier whitepaper suggests that their device can be applied beyond just mobile phones – personal computers can also be subject to the rule-sets the equipment esablishes. Given this possibility, it suggests that Bell could provide this service to their land-based subscribers at a later date as well.
Integration with the Unipier Family
It should be noted that the IPM is the foundation that Unipier’s Intelligent Policy Suite (IPS) sits on. the IPS allows for contextually-based advertising. Recognizing the individuals are unlikely to want to get ads delivered straight to their phones unless they are clearly relevant, the IPS aims to let operators:
…leverage their current network and service assets to achieve a prime role within the mobile advertising value chain. The operator´s unique position allows it to control the advertising real-estate and manage the rich context and usage information of any of its subscribers. By cooperating with advertisers and managing a subscriber-aware, cross-channel advertising campaign, operators ensure efficient and successful mobile advertising services. (Source)
While I don’t want to go so far as to suggest that this is coming to the Bell network (or any other cellular network), the recent attempts by Rogers, especially, to use their DPI equipment to intercept and modify content if they believe that their customers will ‘appreciate’ it, highlights Rogers’ willingness to modify customers’ experiences without their consent. Similar experiences are being found by other ISPs around the world. By integrating technology that allows for the delivery of contextual advertising, Bell is creating a hospitable infrastructure for extending their present revenue streams, all for the ‘benefit’ of the consumer. I remain hopeful that any such implementation would be ‘opt-in’, but have my doubts.