Over in the US, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has officially published an order overturning previously established net neutrality protections, which could have major ramifications for everyone online – but the pushback against the move has already started.
As Reuters reports, a coalition of 22 state attorneys general and Washington yesterday refiled a legal challenge that aims to stop this in its tracks (this action was previously initiated last month, but then withdrawn as the move had to wait for the FCC’s publication of the order).
The attorneys general have put forward the case that the FCC is making ‘arbitrary and capricious’ changes to policies here, and accuses the commission of disregarding “critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses.”
What does the repeal of these net neutrality protections actually mean? In short, it gives ISPs free reign over throttling traffic and the ability to prioritize certain services as they wish. In other words, services who pay ISPs or are otherwise favored by them will run faster than others, effectively creating a multi-tiered internet rather than a level playing field when it comes to speeds.
So what happens next? Alongside the legal action, post-publication there is now a 60-day deadline for Congress to repeal the FCC’s order. While support for revoking the move could be achieved in the Senate, where only one more supporter is needed (with 50 of 100 backing the repeal currently), there’s more of an uphill battle in the House of Representatives.
So overall, the prospect of a legislative victory is looking shaky, particularly when you also consider the prospect of a Trump veto coming into play as a final line of defense.
Vote with a VPN?
If these measures go through, and the legal and political action fails to stop the FCC, this may persuade more folks to jump on board with VPN services. Mainly because if you go with a VPN, then your ISP won’t be able to see what services you’re using online in order to throttle or otherwise shape – or indeed block – your traffic.
That said, there could be a whole fresh can of worms opened if ISPs then decide to take action against VPNs.
Jaime Fink, co-founder of Mimosa Networks and a member of the FCC’s Broadband Development Advisory Committee, sees problems here running even deeper than net neutrality.
Fink told us: “The FCC has officially published its net neutrality repeal overturning the landmark Obama-era rules. Yet, high-speed internet provision across America has long been stifled by an even more pervasive problem – lack of competition.
“Mega ISPs have monopolized the market and could gain ever more power due to today’s decision, meaning they face little competitive pressure and incentive to upgrade their services and treat all types of traffic fairly. Consumers and businesses may mourn the loss of an open, free internet, but most Americans have never even experienced an open, free internet market.
“The solution lies in new wireless technologies, which can level the playing field by offering a cost-effective and accessible tool for smaller ISPs to provide broadband services, and challenge the dominance of mega-ISPs.”