Stopping the death of net neutrality isn’t going to be an easy fight. We might lose. If the battle in Congress doesn’t go our way, state and local legislatures are the next stage. But even then, some parts of the USA might have to resign themselves to being used to a world where massive corporations – assembled for the purpose – can control what they see and hear and where they go online.
So, assuming the worst case scenario, that either the battle to save the free internet is comprehensively lost or we end up with a half-and-half internet and you’re in a non-neutral area, how can you protect yourself?
Your ISP has won the legal power to
Censor the news you can hear, see and read by slowing access to hostile sites – or just to any source that hasn’t paid their protection money ‘fast lane access fee.’
Unduly influence the democratic process by controlling your access to the messaging of different candidates or to points of view that their leadership disagrees with. Like this.
Interfere in your communications. If your ISP is pro-Skype and you want to talk to someone whose ISP is pro-Hangouts, you may find that you just can’t connect! (Kinda like this.)
Demand that you shell out to have access to their customers. By the time you read this, we could be getting shaken down by your ISP just to get in front of your eyeballs.
Manage your shopping preferences for you. You’ll get zippy access to whichever shops your ISP strikes a deal with, and unuseable, snail-like access to all the others.
Spy on you. This is the biggie. ISPs have always been able to see which websites you visit, though in theory they didn’t actually do so. They’re not allowed to actually spy on the content you upload and download and then share that information with anyone, except the federal government (so that’s fine then). But metadata? It’s open season.
The FCC proposed privacy regulations last year that were shot down by Congress. As a result, there’s nothing – apart from a voluntary code of conduct – to stop your ISP collecting all the IP addresses of all the websites you visit, bundling that data and selling it to the highest bidder.
Some sleazy data shop that traffics in maybe-reliable info in divorce cases or other legal proceedings.
Defend yourself with a VPN
Thing is, in order to do those things, your ISP has to be able to see what’s in your data packets.
A data packet is basically the crucial technical innovation that makes the internet possible. Digital information – pictures, sounds – is broken up, bundled into packets and sent out over the network. At the other end, another computer reassembles the packets and you can see your mom asking you if you’re eating enough.
Your ISP can’t throttle your connection to one website, but not to another, if it can’t tell where your packets are headed.
So, one way you can fight for your own rights on a day-to-day basis is to get a good VPN – and use it!
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