A few weeks ago the telecommunications giant announced it would be installing fancy new routers with its high-speed fiber-optic cable service known as FiOS. Available in only a few places across the United States, FiOS has been drooled over by tech-savvy blog Engadget and CNN alike. That’s because it can deliver a wide range of media (from movies to phone calls) much faster than its competitors — supposedly at a speed of up to 20 megabits per second, far faster than typical DSL’s 1.5.Sounds great, right? Not so much. The router that comes with new installs of FiOS, according to Verizon’s press release, “supports remote management that uses new industry standards known as TR-069, enabling Verizon to perform troubleshooting without having to dispatch a technician.” Whenever I see the phrase “remote management,” I get antsy. That means Verizon can talk to your router from its local offices, which the company claims is all for the good of the consumer.
However, if you actually read the TR-069 standard, you’ll see that Verizon can do a lot more than just troubleshoot. It can literally reflash all the memory in your router, essentially reprogramming your entire home entertainment system. As a result, Verizon can alter its service delivery options at any time. Even if you’ve signed up for a network-neutral FiOS that sends you to whatever Web sites you like and routes your peer-to-peer traffic the same way it routes your e-mail, Verizon can change that on a whim. With one “remote management” event, the company can change the settings in your router to deliver Fox News faster than NPR. It can block all traffic coming from France or prevent you from using Internet phones that aren’t controlled by Verizon.