Net neutrality represents the principle of an open internet that treats everyone the same in terms of access and speed. It suggests service providers regulate the speed flow of content equally. It doesn’t matter what content it is who its recipient is.
In other words, companies shouldn’t be able to dictate what people have access to. But they often do. ISPs and governments block websites or make internet connection faster or slower for some online activities, for example, gaming.
Read on to find out what the net neutrality repeal means for the future of the internet.
Net Neutrality and Legislation
Net neutrality was in place in the US legislature and went into effect in 2015. The rules prohibited broadband service providers from throttling users based on content. It also forbids providing priority (fast lanes) speed for companies or consumers who paid more.
But in 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) decided to scrap that order. It paved the way for service providers to throttle and block content as they pleased, based on who’s willing to pay more.
How Does It Affect You?
The FCC’s new rules don’t prohibit broadband providers from capitalizing on who can pay more while edging out those who can’t afford to pay. They do require that providers disclose any relevant information about their network management practices. But it does mean that companies can start dividing and selling internet services in bundles. Much like what a company in Portugal is already doing. Want to access Facebook? Buy this social media bundle first!
Large enterprises and wealthy households can become ISPs’ priority because they can afford to pay more. Some smaller businesses have shared this concern, stating that their business could suffer.
Big companies can pay to have their websites load faster. It attracts more traffic and drives business away from smaller competitors who can’t compete on that level. The same goes for smaller eCommerce websites. They will have to face off against well-established giants who can afford to have traffic directed to them.
Can New Policies Make a Positive Change?
Politicians struggle to keep up with the many advancements in technology, and so effective policy has been lagging as well. It is as valid for the internet, where new policies like the GDPR are only coming into effect now. Yet, even new regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) can’t guarantee net neutrality. And they don’t necessarily work out for the better.
Websites still gather a ton of data and browser trackers are still hard at work, following your every online move. All the GDPR’s rules have done is to make website owners more accountable and, thus, more cautious.
Sure, it has set a solid precedent for online privacy. But it has also led to a less open internet. After all, some websites block visitors from the EU so that they don’t have to follow the rules. It’s one step forward and two steps back at this point.
Managing Net Neutrality By Yourself
The FCC has done its fair share of harm to net neutrality in these last few years. But the Senate can still see the error in allowing broadband providers so much control. New legal recourse can pop up within the next few years that puts the user first.
For now, though, there are a few tools that will help you take control of your online privacy and force a neutral connection. Here are a couple of options you can look at.
Connect to a VPN Server
Virtual private networks (VPNs) weren’t created with net neutrality in mind, but they are the perfect tool for it. When someone connects to a VPN server, their IP address gets replaced by the server’s address. And their connection to the internet is encrypted.
The encryption is essential in this context because it keeps ISPs from identifying the traffic running over the network. Which means that they cannot throttle or block any specific content, or make content load slower.
Use the Tor Network
The Tor Network relies on peer-to-peer connections and hides a person’s online activity from their service provider. Tor even has its browser that allows people to connect to and use the Tor Network. ISPs won’t be able to identify what the person is doing over the network. But they might be able to block Tor connections. In that case, use bridge relays to connect to Tor.
The Bottom Line
Net neutrality is a massive debate for consumers and a possible obstacle for raking in the big bucks for broadband providers. Users might not have much of a say in what providers do unless they pressure governments to include net neutrality rules. Until then, it’s every person for themselves. But things aren’t all doom and gloom because tools like VPNs and Tor network are available.