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The Land of the Free just lost one of its most important freedoms: The Freedom of the Internet

January 9th, 2018


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Net Neutrality, just like privacy, is gone in the U.S.  For many citizens net neutrality is something that either seems confusing, or is lost in translation.

ISPs now have full control over what content you see on the internet

Basically, what has happened is that the FCC have handed control of internet services and content to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The ISPs now have full control over what content you see on the internet—including advertisements, news, entertainment, and voting—and how fast they decide to deliver it to you.

I always like to simplify what this means using metaphors that translate into something that everyone is already familiar with, in this case—driving.  Think about the internet as a highway with multiple lanes. Today you can get in your car, no matter what model or manufacturer, and you can drive in any lane at the speed limit provided, equal to other cars on the road. And yes, you have the choice and freedom to choose what car you drive.

Removing Net Neutrality means that each lane now has different restricted speed limits, and the highways can determine what speed you’re allowed to drive at based on the car model you drive. And if you pay more to the service provider or the internet service you might be able to get into a faster lane. They could even block you from getting onto the highway at all if you’re driving a car manufactured by their competitor.  This limits your choice of what type of car you can drive.

It is important to understand what this means for the consumer and the possible impact that this has on the future of innovation and new technologies designed to improve our lives.  This could even extend to health; in the future, internet access will be used to transmit our health data and it could reach a point at which only those who have premium health insurance get access to the doctor, or get it faster than those who have basic health care.  Of course, this is an extreme possibility though it is still possible with this decision.

The decision to remove net neutrality has created a massive monopoly that did not exist before

The original problem, or at least debate, was that the ISPs had lost competitive advantage over social media. But I do not see this as equal context.  In almost all cases we have the option to choose which social media provider we want to use, or not use. However, in many situations you do not have a choice over which internet service provider you have access to, so the decision to remove net neutrality has just created a massive monopoly that did not exist previously.

In my opinion, the debate in certain countries over controlling and restricting content has been considered as oppression and controlling the freedom of information and its citizens.  Is this what removing Net Neutrality achieved, however—rather than the government it is now controlled by the ISPs?  Does this mean that ISPs in the U.S. have the same powers as countries with state controlled media?

Overall I believe technology will prevail and it is only a matter of time until innovative and creative people will find a way around this.  What this will at least introduce is that more people will start using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to hide what services they use, meaning that the ISPs will have less visibility in the future than today, and thereby having the reverse affect while at the same time making law enforcement struggle further with cyber crime.

Only time will tell whether this was in the best interest of the citizens in the U.S. However, what it does mean is that internet freedom will come with a price tag.

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Joseph Carson

A Cyber Security Professional with 20+ years’ experience in Enterprise Security & Infrastructure, Joseph is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). An active member of the cyber security community and a frequent speaker at cyber security events globally, Joseph is also an adviser to several cyber security conferences.

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