Most of the companies that provide internet services to the public have a history of violating net neutrality. Some of these companies include Comcast, Verizon and AT&T. Not only have these companies violated net neutrality, but they’re also trying to influence the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle the law itself.
The bottom line is that these companies are trying to take away consumer rights for a profit.
Now, this might sound like something a conspiracy theorist would say, but it’s not. It’s something that’s been happening for a long time now, and it’s not only companies. It’s congress too.
You probably remember back in 2012 when the U.S. congress was trying to pass SOPA and PIPA.
CAPTION: This was Wikipedia’s contribution to the widespread protests against SOPA and PIPA.
Those were essentially anti-piracy measures, intended for companies to make more from people actually having to buy their products. Obviously, there was a little more at play than the White House suddenly becoming worried about piracy all of the sudden.
But we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s talk about the FCC.
The FCC describes their mission as to, essentially, regulate all communication that isn’t face-to-face in the U.S. Sounds simple enough, but politics can make anything complicated. And the arbitrary interpretation of the first amendment makes this mission even more complicated.
Back in January of this year, U.S. President Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the chairman of the FCC. To put it nicely, he has many, uh, fans. Pai’s policy positions alone give you a good idea as to why he isn’t the best person to be in charge of exactly what information you’re allowed to send and receive on the internet.
Actually, he’s one of the last people you want to be in charge of that. Leaders should not have companies in their pockets, but that’s already far too common throughout the whole world.
And this week, Pai is capitalizing on his role as head of the FCC at the expense of the average internet user. He has formally proposed a repeal for net neutrality, which will go to vote in December of this year.
Now, in order to understand how this repeal could significantly dampen the future of the internet, let’s first look back on the history of net neutrality.
In 2015, Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman under Former U.S. President Barack Obama, passed protections for net neutrality. These protections are currently going through the process of being pushed back, and the final decision is to be made before the end of this year. (You can read more about how that will affect you here.)
Ever since the phrase “net neutrality” was coined in 2003, the FCC has had something to say about it. They even established the “four freedoms” in the same year, which said that people should be allowed to:
- Access the content of their choice, as long as it’s lawful content.
- Run applications and services of their choice.
- Connect their choice of (legal) devices that do not harm the network.
- Allow for competition among networks, applications and content providers.
In 2005, just two years after net neutrality was established, Comcast—the biggest ISP at the time—blocked peer-to-peer software from being able to run. As a result, file sharing programs like BitTorrent became unusable.
Comcast did this without notifying their customers of the change, and they did it without discrimination. No matter what you were downloading, no matter how legal it may have been, you were blocked from doing so.
However, this does make a little sense, as it’s pretty obvious as to why a company wouldn’t want you to be able to torrent content. It’s a little harder to fathom as to why platforms like Skype, FaceTime, video streaming apps, Google Wallet, and many other services would also be blocked behind closed doors.
Actually, I lied.
The truth is, these companies did it for money. Anytime a company sees that it can cut corners and save a few bucks, it does so in the first chance it gets. But when cutting corners involves extorting customers, it can’t just be dismissed as a lousy business practice.
Now, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with your right to a free and open internet.
The answer to that is, well, everything.
If we don’t have net neutrality, the internet becomes a place where companies control everything you see, and charge you to see it. If they want, they can completely block your ability to use vital anonymity software like Tor, or throttle your connection for doing so.
Also, if net neutrality isn’t implemented, Tor will no longer be able to protect and anonymize you. It’s already good practice to use a Virtual Private Network, but in this case, VPN is the only thing that can protect you.
If a company sees traffic coming in from a Tor relay, they’ll have full control to just block it. Articles like this that badmouth those companies would be blocked. Any competition would be blocked, so consumers wouldn’t be tempted for something else.
A world without net neutrality is not a world that you want to live in.
Hopefully, you’re angry at this, and want to do something about it. There’s no point in being mad at something if you aren’t going to do anything about it.
CAPTION: A screenshot from BattleForTheNet.com, a site urging for support of Net Neutrality.
Even if you don’t think making a phone call or writing an email is all that much, it’s better than nothing. Reaching out to people does more than you’d expect. You don’t have to get out and protest for net neutrality, but you should do what you can to fight for it. Even if all you’re doing is calling and tweeting, your voice is still heard.
Let your voice be heard while it still can.