If there’s one phrase that pops up ever so frequently in cyber-security conversations, it has to be ‘net neutrality.’ Despite the media coverage the topic has been getting recently, there’s still much misinformation being spread, particularly in regards to the relations that net neutrality has with ISPs.
In an attempt to bring our readers into the loop regarding the ISP privacy bill, and the influence it has, we’ve compiled an article that answers the following questions:
- What was the original Internet Privacy legislation?
- What are the current rules governing ISPs?
- What are the consequences of the ISP privacy bill in 2019?
What was the original ISP Privacy Bill?
To understand the original rules governing ISPs, we need to have a clear understanding of the principle of net neutrality itself.
Simply put, net neutrality is the fundamental principle that demands for all internet traffic to be treated equally, regardless of the fact is you’re using something as massive as Facebook, or a site no one’s ever heard of before.
Moreover, net neutrality ensures that Internet Service Providers aren’t favoring or blocking particular sites or products in lieu of a financial gain to be made. If you were reading this article a year ago, we’d still be mentioning the importance of net neutrality, but times have certainly changed.
It’s been over a year since the Obama-era net neutrality laws have been repealed by Congress, with an unprecedented amount of control being handed to ISPs as the gatekeepers of the internet.
The original rules, given in 2015, under FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, stated the following:
- The 2015 regulations prohibited ISPs from paid prioritization that is favoring companies willing to pay extra, by providing them with ‘fast-lanes,’ while slowing or blocking the competitions’ sites.
- The 2015 ISP privacy bill also included a ‘general conduct rule’ that enabled the FCC Federal Communications Commission) complete control over ISPs that broke regulations and were engaging in practices that harmed consumers, including bandwidth throttling.
Another interesting development to keep in mind concerning the 2015 internet legislation is that the FCC classified broadband in the same legal category as the archaic telephone network, which strengthened the hold FCC had over ISPs and the internet in general.
What are the current rules governing ISPs?
As is the case in most countries when it comes to the matter of free speech, net neutrality and its relation with ISPs has been severely impacted by the evolution in the political environment of the U.S. The Obama-era rules were given by Tom Wheeler, a Democrat- and had to face severe scrutiny by the Republicans once Donald Trump was elected as the POTUS.
Furthermore, Ajit Pai, the new FCC Chairman, appointed by Trump went as far as to call the Obama-era regulations “heavy-handed” and “a mistake,” along with stating that the old rules left little incentive to work on improving broadband infrastructure as a whole.
In an attempt to correct the FCC’s 2015 rules, which apparently placed complete control in the hands of the FCC, Ajit Pai led the repeal of 2015’s net neutrality legislation. A vote was taken on the 4th of December, 2017, and the old rules were finally wiped out of existence on the 11th of June, 2018.
The new rules, adopted under the chairmanship of Ajit Pai, brought into light the following changes:
- Moving on, the FCC would have no say in matters related to broadband providers, owing to the “Restoring Internet Freedom” order passed which handed control over to the FTC. (Federal Trade Commission)
- Subsequently, as a result of the FCC being stripped of its power, Internet Providers are free to manipulate their user’s data however they want to, including but certainly not limited to selling the collected information to advertisers for targeted marketing.
With the changes being noted, however, the new legislation adopted a single ‘no transparency clause from the 2015 ISP privacy regulations, which makes it essential for broadband providers to reveal how they manage their networks, including whether or not they offer paid prioritization with certain services.
To find out more about the net neutrality legislation in each state of the U.S, feel free to check this out.
What are the consequences of the ISP privacy bill for the regular internet user?
Although Ajit Pai and many republicans continuously state that the new legislation put in place is considerable progress from the 2015 rules, and will result in more and more Internet Service Providers investing in improving the infrastructure of their networks.
In reality, however, the consequences of net neutrality being repealed could be devastating for the standard internet user, and could result in the following outcomes:
- Increased Prices: With no net neutrality in place, ISPs can throttle your bandwidth, create fast lanes for higher-paying companies, and eventually force consumers to pay more, without so much as receiving a warning from the FTC.
- ISPs can sell your sensitive data: An alarming consequence of the new internet regulations put in place is that ISPs can manipulate the confidential information that passes through them without your consent. This means that your broadband provider could sell your data, which includes every single like, dislike, political views, etc. to advertisers for further monetary exploitation.
Although it’s been a little over a year since the 2015 Obama-era rules were discarded, there hasn’t been any significant change in the way ISPs have been behaving.
With that being said, the rules formulated by Ajit Pai have made the future of the internet uncertain, to say the least. Many users fear that the lack of control over broadband providers will result in a dystopian reality, straight out of our Orwellian nightmares.
At the end of this article, we hope that we’ve given you all the necessary information about the ISP Privacy bill, and the impact that those rules could have on the average internet user.
With that said, cybersecurity is more vital than ever. In an attempt to protect their valuable data, many people are turning to security options such as integrating The Onion Browser (tor) or a VPN into their regular browsing sessions.