LibertyBob.com

Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Google France

2008-12-09

Category: General

I get my Internet service from one of two major ISPs in the Cedar Rapids area. My net comes through a cable modem and, for years now, things have been pretty reliable. Now, however, something has gone terribly wrong.

From what I hear, the ISP has farmed out the acquisition of available IP Addresses. They get them from another company and don't always check things such as country of origin. This results in some funny side effects. I first heard about this when our cable expert had to hunt down a problem with our corporate cable account. Now it has hit my home. (Note: for those who don't know, an IP Address is a unique number used to reach a particular computer on the Internet.)

You have probably seen how some web sites automatically determine where you are from and adjust the content accordingly. For example, if you are in the United States and you go to the BBC web site to see the latest Doctor Who trailer, they will not show it to you, stating that it is not available in your area. Likewise, Google will try to determine the best language to use for their pages based on your IP Address.

That's where the trouble shows up. While going to Google to look up a thing or two, I was faced with a somewhat familiar page that wasn't quite right. The address bar showed that I had been bumped to Google France. The entire page was in Frog Latin! Attempts to change the page back to English failed. Knowing there was little I could do, I continued with my search and tried to translate as best I could.

There is a "Contact Us" page at my ISP's web site. I left a little note about the discount I expected because of the inconvenience and suggested that they sue the vendor for the harm caused to relationship between the ISP and their customers. I didn't mention that I would be directing a complaint to the Iowa Utilities Board if things didn't soon right themselves.

Now I'm stuck wondering how many other problems may show up due to being seen as French. Will I be prohibited from getting to certain government web sites? Will I be unable to purchase some items? Will I accidentally navigate into sites that are prohibited in the US? Will my browser ever again be clean?

There are good, technical reasons for the geographic association of IP Addresses. It is important for the continued functioning of the Internet that we not mix things up. The company that sells these addresses to my ISP is obviously a shady operation and it would not surprise me to find they are involved with criminals or terrorists who want to muddle their origins. As for my ISP, well, I suspect that someone waved a shiny thing in front of a manager and got that manager to sign a technical contract without understanding any of the details. That happens with way too many managers of technical things.

Rest assured that LibertyBob.com will remain an (Iowan) English language web site.


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