This is an extremely interesting topic to me. Personally, I am all for little to no government involvement at all times. The US government’s motto is, “For the people”, or some crap like that, but we all know their real motto is, “For the money.” They will sacrifice all of their people if it means getting more money in their coffers.
I am neither Republican or Democrat. I understand both side’s arguments to world issues, but all they ever do is bash each other and don’t actually accomplish anything of real use. The republicans put in some policy and then the Democrats come in two years later and repeal it, and vice versa. It is a waste of time. I swore of using Facebook for this very reason. I would classify myself as anti-politics, anti-government, and anti-religion.
I will try to be unbiased with this article. I don’t want to get into the politics of it so much, but more or less, how it may affect you and your privacy going forward. I only conveyed my political views, or lack thereof, to show that I am somewhat indifferent to the decision, as I am to most political decisions.
When I first heard of the repeal, I was all up in arms about what was going to happen and how screwed all of us were going to be. But, after thinking about it for a while, I remembered back in 2014 or so when there was no such thing as net neutrality and I don’t remember wishing there was some type of control in place to protect me. But the internet landscape has changed vastly since then.
Even as of writing this right now, I still have conflicting viewpoints about whether it is good or bad and I have not come to a decision. I will update this if I ever do.
The Net Neutrality Decision and the Solution
The recent decision of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to roll back net neutrality has sent shockwaves throughout the online community. The fear is that the one thing that unites people all around the world, the internet, is being undermined.
Everyone has had their say. Individuals have expressed their outrage in the social media. Small businesses have talked about why the end of neutrality could hurt them where it matters the most, profits.
FCC Chairman Ajith Pai has become one of the most unpopular men in the country because of that. He has talked about how even his family was targeted by those protesting the repeal of net neutrality.
That is very unfortunate, and I hope everyone calms down and nobody gets hurt in this battle over net neutrality when there is such an easy way out of the problem – use a VPN to get around the repeal of net neutrality.
I am going to explain how that works. But first, let’s quickly discuss what net neutrality really means and how its rollback can potentially affect you.
What is/was Net Neutrality?
Whenever you are online you there are a couple things that you expect to happen. One, you will want to be able to visit any website you like, whenever you like. Two, you will want your ISP or internet service provider not to manipulate your data usage, or in other words, give you unlimited data at the speed you are paying for.
You will want to be charged fairly by your ISP based on your data usage, the websites visited, the videos streamed and the applications used. You want to be in full control of your internet usage. You pay a set monthly fee and are given basically unlimited access to data, as outlined in your contract, or in the terms of service if you are not on a contract.
In other words, what you want and expect is called as Net Neutrality. You may realize this or not, what we had until now was Net Neutrality. Now, there is a fear that Net Neutrality can be taken away from us.
Net Neutrality is a law, principle or commonly accepted norm that prohibits ISPs such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from slowing down or speeding up any content, or from blocking any website that you might want to use. The internet, as we know it, has been built on the back of Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality was never a law or a regulation as such. It was just accepted by every ISP. That changed in 2015 when because of pressure from millions of internet activists, the FCC decided to make Net Neutrality the law of the land, and promised to keep the internet free and open for one and all. That was when Barack Obama was the President of the United States.
But one must also ask the question, “How is it called freedom if the government had to intervene?”
Freedom should be the opposite of government involvement. Why does the government have to make a law saying we have free speech? Shouldn’t we always have free speech regardless of some stupid amendment?
These questions are really tough to answer and I’m not going to answer them here. They were more food for thought for you.
Things have changed since then. President Donald Trump has never really spoken out either for or against net neutrality and we don’t really know his opinion on this.
But the Republican Party has always been against it. The Senate, where the Republicans hold a majority, decided to repeal the Net Neutrality protections in a vote on December 14, 2017.
Ajith Pai, the FCC Chairman has always been against the Net Neutrality regulations. Some attribute this to the fact that he was a Verizon lawyer in the past. But it is not fair to judge him for that as Mr. Pai is a highly accomplished professional. But there is no question that his actions have rubbed certain people the wrong way.
Are ISPs Against Net Neutrality?
The fear of many is that without Net Neutrality, ISPs would hold the power to discriminate against internet users and manipulate online traffic. This wasn’t much of an issue before high speed internet became so popular. Back when we did not have so many streaming services and online games that consume so much data, ISPs didn’t really have any problem with the Net Neutrality law or with providing a free and fair and internet to all users.
The regulations were very simple back then. But now, because of the heavy data usage, ISPs have been forced to take a position against Net Neutrality. They say that it doesn’t make sense for them to treat those who use a lot of data at par with those who use little or no data. For example, the ISPs are of the opinion that someone who uses the internet to watch movies on Netflix or play online games should be charged higher than a grandmother who uses the internet only to check emails. That’s why they say that all internet traffic is not equal and cannot be treated equal.
In my opinion, the streaming services these days are the catalyst of this entire debate/repeal. The amount of data being consumed now is astronomical compared to only three years ago.
This could potentially work out better for some and worse for others. If you were only charged on your actual usage, that grandmother I talked about stands to benefit massively on her monthly bill, while other more frequent streamers will most certainly not.
At the same time, any ISP could mandate a minimum monthly charge (which I assume they will) making the grandmother not quite so lucky but probably still better off than right now.
Really, when you think about that, the ISPs do have a point. I’m not trying to take a position here, but want to put across all views on the topic. You can then decide where you stand on this!
Why are the Internet Activists Protesting?
What are the internet activists protesting about? To a certain extent the protests seem to be politically motivated and inspired by the hatred that most internet activists, who are of a leftist persuasion, have for President Trump – I’m just being frank here. But there is some sense in what they are protesting about, no matter which side of the political divide you’re from.
The activists say that if there is no net neutrality, large corporations such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have all the power in their hands. They will call the shots and get to decide which websites or which content can succeed, not the people who use the internet. Basically, squeeze out the little guy, as large corporations typically do in every industry.
That gives these companies the power to block or slow down any websites or online services that belong to a competitor, for example, or to make sure that nobody on their network can access the political opinions that they disagree with. The can charge extra frees from certain companies for giving them preferential treatment, while those that don’t pay up suffer as a consequence.
The activists are particularly worried about the consequences for the media outlets belonging to poor or marginalized communities, which may lack the resources to compete on an equal footing with much bigger and richer competitors.
The open internet is of a great importance for people of color, the indigenous people, members of the LGBTQ community, and those belonging to various religious minorities.
The minorities and disadvantaged communities depend on the open internet to access educational and business opportunities, such as to start a small online business.
There is a fear that the repeal of net neutrality will make it much harder for them to compete and grow, or to organize. Movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter are entirely based on the open internet. Take that away and it becomes extremely difficult for a minority group to organize.
It is the open internet that allows people of color to speak out about what’s happening in the world, to organize and fight for justice. Without the internet, it becomes much harder for them to share their stories with everyone else. There is a risk that the ISPs could block their messages or websites, if they deem them to be politically incorrect.
It’s not just minorities or left-wing groups that are protesting the repeal of the Open Internet. Even some on the right are against this. Already, there are complaints from right-wing bloggers and social media influencers about how companies like Google and Facebook have been secretly acting against them.
Many right-wing websites have talked about how Google deliberately misrepresents them in their search results, and how Facebook doesn’t treat them same way as they treat the left-wing media.
The repeal of the Open Internet will give too much power to large companies like Google and Facebook and put bloggers and websites belonging to political ideologies that the largely liberal employees of these companies don’t agree with at a serious disadvantage.
But let’s be real for a second. Name a large company that doesn’t have some type of agenda they are trying to push. Name one that isn’t trying to take over the world. Maybe they exist somewhere, who knows? I can name a few that do, like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, CNN, NBC, Fox, etc.. The list goes on and on.
Ultimately, it is up to you to make your own decisions and decide what to believe and what not to. Net neutrality or not, the power is still in your hands. You can choose to not get on Facebook anymore. You can choose whether you read Fox News’ story about how all immigrants are terrorists or CNN telling you that all Republicans hate non-white people.
What Does the Rollback of Net Neutrality Mean For You?
Okay, now you know all about the debate on net neutrality and the politics behind it. You know why so many people are upset, and why at some level, from the perspective of the ISPs, the repeal of the Open Internet makes sense. Maybe I just riled you up a bit (hopefully). But what does this really mean for you, or the average internet user?
How Net Neutrality Affects you in 3 Ways…
- Even before the rollback of the law, many ISPs were known to slow down internet speeds deliberately depending on the internet activity of the user. This was not legally allowed for sure, but who was to stop the ISPs? This was the routine practice and nobody could really do much about it.
- Now, with the regulation in their favor, the ISPs can do as they please without worrying about getting sued. They can slow down internet speeds of certain users, or provide super fast internet for their best paying customers, charge more for higher speeds, and nobody can do anything about it.
- What does this mean for you? Well, it could make the internet horribly expensive for one. If you want to use the internet the same way as before, such as for watching your favorite shows on Netflix or competing in online gaming competitions, you have to pay extra to get access to the high-bandwidth internet. Don’t want to pay up? Too bad, the ISPs won’t care because they won’t need as many customers with their now higher profit margin. However, it could also make it cheaper for you if they come out with a pay-as-you-go model where you only pay for the data you use.
- Say you run a right-wing blog, a highly politically opinionated one. You don’t like feminism, you support President Trump, and you are against immigration.
- Well, tough luck my friend, the average employee in Google or Facebook, who is more than likely to be from a different political ideology than yours will now have the power to shut down your blog, or to make sure that nobody gets to read it, and there is nothing you can do about it.
- Why is this possible? There is no Net Neutrality, and companies, or any junior level employee in a large company like Google or Facebook now gets to decide which online business can prosper and which should be shut down. See this article to see what I mean. Now, I’m not a personal fan of Breitbart, but they are entitled to the same rights as anyone else. At the same time, you could argue that Google has the right to say who they want on their ad platform and who they don’t. They are a publicly traded company, but if they vote to keep someone off their platform, maybe it is their right.
- Also, as an internet user, you will be forced to pay more, much more, for your preferred services, especially if they consume a lot of data. Suddenly, because of the repeal of net neutrality the internet seems to have become less fair, less open and more expensive.
- Another major concern is privacy. ISPs now have a huge amount of power in their hands and as they say absolute power corrupts absolutely. As an internet user and blogger, I am deeply concerned about privacy, and it scares the hell out of me that the FCC has given the ISPs full power and authority to basically police the internet.
- The ISPs do not need to seek out consent from the FCC for carrying out invasive practices such as collecting data from users without them knowing about it, selling the data to third parties and advertisers and so on and so forth. They have all the power in their hands, and you cannot even protest as the law is now on their side. How do you like them apples?
So What Should You Do About It? GET A VPN – Virtual Private Network.
Is there a way to access your favorite websites or online services without paying extra for it even in an era when there is no net neutrality and no open internet? Yes – by using a VPN!
It couldn’t be simple enough. The solution is so self-evident that it doesn’t make sense for people not to be on a VPN anymore.
I’ve been promoting VPNs and writing tutorials about them for a while now and now more than ever, VPNs have become extremely important, especially if you want to use the internet as you did in the past. If it isn’t the government, it’s some large corporation (who’s probably in bed with the government anyway) that is trying to control you and make you their pawn.
A VPN is not the be-all, end-all solution to everything, but it is the first step in protecting yourself and taking your rights back.
Your VPN can Help Protect you from your ISP and the Government.
You don’t have to worry about the ISP slowing down your site. The VPN hides your network traffic completely, which means your ISP will have no way of knowing which services you are using. It is crucial, however, that you only use a VPN that does not have IP leaks and does not keep any traffic logs.
You can test if you are leaking your IP here, ipleak. As you can see from the screenshot below, I am not using any VPN and it says I am in Germany, which I am currently, and my IP address is being leaked.
Now, I will connect to NordVPN, my VPN of choice, and revisit ipleak again. Now, I am magically from the US and my ISP IP address is no longer what it was.
NordVPN only costs $2.75/month if you get the 3 year plan. You can use it or your Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, Firestick, etc.
So the ISP will have to treat all of your traffic equally, which means even at a time when there is no net neutrality, the VPN restores net neutrality without any government involvement needed. Amazing, isn’t it? It is also doing a lot more to protect you and your privacy, but that isn’t necessarily the point of this article. You can visit the NordVPN website or any other VPN site to learn more about the features VPNs have to offer
How Does a VPN Help You Get Around the Repeal of Net Neutrality?
What a VPN service does is to encrypt all of your data usage and to hide it from the ISP when you access the internet. Your ISP won’t be able to know which websites you are visiting and how much data you have consumed.
All that the ISP can make out is that you have been connected to a VPN server. So that means the ISP cannot block you for accessing a particular website or online service like Netflix or Hulu because it has no way of knowing that you have been visiting that website or accessing the service.
They could try to block that particular IP address, but the VPN companies always have more. It isn’t worth the time for an ISP to be paying people to sit there all day and night block IP address. They have more important things to worry about, like money, and that would cut into their bottom line.
When the ISP cannot make out what you are using, it cannot slow you down or prevent you from using the internet the way you like it. Here’s how signing up for a VPN can help you fight back against your ISP following the end of the open internet as we know it.
High Speed at Affordable Costs
The VPN encrypts your internet connection which prevents the ISP from finding out what you’ve been doing. So there is no way for the ISP to slow you down for using a particular service that requires high data usage, such as an online gaming portal or a video streaming service.
The ISP cannot throttle your internet activity and you don’t need to pay more to access high speed internet services. You can bypass the congested networks and achieve high internet speeds through your VPN, without having to sign up for any of the expensive plans from the ISP. How much does a typical VPN service cost? Not more than $12/month. That’s all you need to pay. And you can get that number way down if you sign up for the yearly plans and pay upfront.
Are you worried about censorship? VPN allows you to bypass any location-specific censorship by an ISP. You don’t have to worry about the restrictions imposed by your internet service provider and can easily change your location by using a server based in a country that has strong Net Neutrality laws and promotes Open Internet. You can choose from dozens of global locations and hundreds of servers with a VPN service.
The most important thing that a VPN does is to protect your privacy. There is no way for the ISP to know which websites you have been visiting and what you have been doing online because all of your traffic runs through the VPNs server before going to your final destination. So, if they cannot collect the data of your internet usage, they cannot sell that to a third party or to advertisers. This saves you from worrying about privacy violations or about being hit by spammers.
It’s also good for ads. You know when you visit a site, and then the next five you go to all have ads about the product or service you just visited a moment ago? It’s called retargeting and it can prevent this.
Now you know a lot about net neutrality, the open internet and why there are so many problems on both sides. But with VPN, you can find a way around your ISP and access any high speed internet services of your choice without having to pay extra for them. Hope you enjoyed reading this, if you have any questions for me or anything to add, feel free to write in the comments below.