Net Neutrality. The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language than ‘featuring Sting.’
John Oliver – Host of Last Week Tonight
Despite that certifiable fact, it’s been on every airwave over the past few years. In the United States, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Obama administration introduced net neutrality principles in the Open Internet Order (OIO). And since we basically live in a world where nothing makes sense and where the opposite of common sense reigns supreme, the Trump-appointed FCC soon oversaw a vote to repeal the principle in 2017.
Net neutrality demands Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give impartial and equal access to all internet resources — information, websites, and applications. Without net neutrality, the very future of the free internet is at stake. Thankfully, the Biden administration restored net neutrality rules in July 2021 via an executive order.
The power dynamic will likely keep oscillating between the two parties, and so will the government’s stance on net neutrality. Whatever governments decide, you can still access the open internet with CyberGhost VPN. We mask your IP address and encrypt your internet traffic. With CyberGhost VPN, your ISP can’t monitor or control your digital life.
What Is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality isn’t a new concept. In fact, the term was first coined twenty years ago by Tim Wu, a media law professor at Columbia University.
Net neutrality is a principle stating that ISPs can’t charge customers differently based on the platform, content, application, website, or equipment they’re using. In other words, the internet should remain under neutral control, and users should be able to access all internet data and services without ISP discrimination.
It’s a fairly simple principle, mostly in keeping with the original vision the founding father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, had for the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee dreamed of a decentralized platform controlled by the user, not by the greed of hungry corporations.
That’s why, when the internet first rolled out, Berners-Lee made it free to use. He wanted to promote a thriving system built upon the ingenuity of developers. That’s also what net neutrality aims to do — keep your ISP (and others) from having too much control or say over ‘who’ gets ‘what’.
The Internet without Net Neutrality — An Unlevel Playing Field
Without net neutrality, a large internet company like Comcast or Verizon could charge you more to use competing websites or services, going so far as to throttle users’ internet speeds when they use the services of companies that compete with them.
For example, aside from being an internet company, Comcast is one of the largest cable television providers in the world. The major enemy of cable television over the last decade has been streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Comcast’s internet and TV branch, Xfinity, finds itself holding a lot of power over streaming competition — without net neutrality rules, Xfinity could choke the internet speeds on Netflix for all its customers.
The result would be a frustratingly-sluggish streaming experience with poor picture quality and repeated buffering interruptions. Frustrated, the customer turns back to cable television, putting more money back into Comcast’s pocket.
Another potentially unfair scenario comes in the form of prioritization. Without Net Neutrality, an ISP like Verizon or Xfinity could make a deal with a streaming company like Hulu. In this hypothetical situation, Hulu pays Verizon or Xfinity a sum of money in exchange for preferential speeds. Verizon or Xfinity would then make users’ speed on Hulu faster while throttling competing services like Netflix or Amazon Prime.
This preferential speed is what’s known as an ‘internet fast lane’. ISPs across the EU and the US are currently demanding Big Tech companies share their infrastructure expenses. If mandated, such requirements can undermine net neutrality regulations, as the paying companies may demand or receive preferential treatment.
Additionally, mandating infrastructure cost payments for all companies would create an entry barrier for smaller tech companies. If you think this doesn’t sound fair to the consumer or to the free market economy in general, you’re more in keeping with the Democrat line of thinking.
Examples of Net Neutrality Breaches
In the US, democrats have historically protected net neutrality laws, beginning with the 2015 common carrier regulations. Politicians chose these regulations solely to prevent abuse, like what we discussed in the hypothetical examples listed above. They sought to have broadband internet services regulated as a public utility, like water, electricity, and natural gas. You know, the important stuff.
The Open Internet Order of 2015 effectively reclassified the internet as a common carrier telecommunications service. Essentially, it banned these three practices:
- ️❌ Blocking lawful content and services
- ️❌ Traffic content or app-based throttling
- ️❌ Paid prioritization of content and services
This ruling only stood for 2 years before President Donald Trump’s appointed FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai — who just so happened to work at Verizon — oversaw a vote in 2017 to repeal net neutrality. This made the internet an information service once more, solely controlled by corporations.
Why was that an issue? To illustrate why this is problematic, we’ll look at some notorious net neutrality breaches. These all occurred either before the Open Internet Order or after the Trump administration repealed it. Buckle up, ‘cause it’s about to get icky.
1. Comcast Caught Throttling BitTorrent Traffic
From 2008 to 2011, reports showed Comcast utilized forged packets to throttle peer-to-peer file-sharing apps, such as BitTorrent. Torrenting is when users download large files by connecting to other users who are using the same peer-to-peer system. Comcast was throttling torrenting speeds with the excuse that much of the downloaded content was copyrighted.
Except, a lot of torrenting is legal — many people use torrents to share open-source software, like Linux distributions. The FCC discovered the throttling attempt and ordered Comcast to stop.
2. Madison River Communications Restricted Access to Vonage
The FCC fined Madison River Communications Company $15,000 in 2004 for attempting to restrict access to Vonage, an internet phone company. Vonage was a competitor, so rather than compete in a free-and-open market, Madison River Communications tried to use its influence to stifle the competing service.
3. AT&T Throttled Apple’s FaceTime
AT&T, no stranger to ethical gray areas, was caught throttling the speed of Apple’s popular FaceTime video messaging service. Users could only access full speeds by paying for AT&T’s shared data plans. Once it was discovered, AT&T quickly lifted the restrictions.
4. Verizon’s Liberal Net Neutrality Violations
Users have blamed Verizon Wireless for a number of Net Neutrality related issues (We see you, Mr. Pai). In 2017, after the net neutrality repeal, customers accused Verizon of throttling access to streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix.
When pressed on the issue, Verizon claimed it was performing network testing. Keep in mind, Verizon also has a television service called Verizon Fios, so it would benefit greatly from limiting Netflix and YouTube, who it undoubtedly competes with.
Verizon later disgracefully demonstrated the full scope of the implications of lifting net neutrality rules. The Santa Clara Fire Department was using Verizon’s service to coordinate an emergency response while a large chunk of California burned.
Verizon, flexing its power over the internet service of its users, throttled the first responders’ data speeds, saying they had gone over their allotted data amounts. This crippled their ability to fight the largest wildfire in the history of the state.
Emails from the fire department mentioned throttled speeds beginning in late July, just a few weeks after the Trump administration repealed net neutrality rules. All the while Congress and the FCC sat idly by, twiddling their thumbs (thanks for looking out, lawmakers).
By impeding the first responders’ ability to coordinate, Verizon put property and human lives on the line in the name of profit. Take a wild guess at how they’ll treat lesser issues, like keeping your digital identity private.
While you can’t get around ISP-imposed data caps, you can use CyberGhost VPN to prevent content-based bandwidth throttling. We encrypt your internet traffic, so your ISP or telecom provider can’t monitor the websites or services you’re accessing to throttle your connection speeds.
Net Neutrality in Other Countries
Net neutrality is not a uniquely US issue. The internet is global, and thus all countries have a vested interest in how it’s used. Typically, if a government acknowledges net neutrality and comments on the concept, they support it.
Here are some examples of the Net neutrality conversation in other countries throughout the world.
Net Neutrality in China
China has no real accounting of net neutrality. That’s because the government uses ISPs to limit the content citizens can access. ISPs are part of what’s called The Great Firewall of China. Many foreign websites, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, are blocked to the general public, unless you use a VPN.
The Chinese government controls the flow of information and limits residents’ access to any voices that might criticize the government’s viewpoints. When ISPs in China are government-dependent, instead of neutral intermediaries, it’s no wonder that issues of fair competition and corporate misuse are not discussed publicly.
Net Neutrality in the European Union
The EU established a foundation for its rules on Net Neutrality in Article 3 of the EU Regulation 2015/2120, a.k.a. The Open Internet Regulation. As with all EU policies and legislation, the Open Internet Regulation applies to all 27 member countries.
These mandates, however, represent little more than a framework. Individual EU states like Slovenia and Netherlands have had far tougher laws on net neutrality in place since 2012. The EU’s net neutrality guidelines have come under fire from critics because of the number of potential loopholes ISPs can take advantage of.
For instance, ISPs in the EU have the option to offer optimized services for “qualified” content, applications, and services if these so-called network “fast lanes” don’t replace or downgrade the overall quality of internet access services. Proponents of net neutrality have dubbed these vaguely defined “fast lanes” as a compromise solution for the commercial interests of ISPs.
Before CJEU’s (Court of Justice of the European Union) September 2021 ruling against zero-rating, ISPs could even give a website “zero-rating”, which meant using those websites didn’t count against a user’s data limit. Zero-rating mostly benefits giants like Facebook and Google.
Net Neutrality in Russia
The Russian government did take steps to uphold net neutrality. Wait. What?! Russian ISPs used to have a habit of limiting peer-to-peer software like BitTorrent. After four years of back-and-forth discussion, the government put net neutrality laws in place in 2016. Russian law prohibits ISPs throughout the country from throttling or blocking websites… except, of course, for those the government has told them to block.
Much like China, Russia also limits citizens’ access to certain websites, specifically anything critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. However, the country doesn’t want ISPs to decide what sites to throttle (that power remains solidly in the establishment’s hands).
Net Neutrality in the United Kingdom
The term net neutrality isn’t given much thought in the UK, apparently. It’s mostly referred to as “open internet” across the pond. People view “net neutrality” as an American political term, and Members of Parliament typically avoid using it.
In any case, the UK has had its fair share of net neutrality issues and breaches. For instance, back in 2007, the British ISP Plusnet was secretly limiting online gaming traffic, file transfer protocols, and peer-to-peer torrenting networks.
The UK later adopted the EU’s net neutrality rules. That was back when the UK was still a part of the EU. Following Brexit, the future of net neutrality in the UK appears to be bleak. Ofcom, the British communication regulator, has proposed further easing the already vague and insufficient net neutrality rules.
Net Neutrality in the United States
The misadventures of the US with net neutrality go back about 20 years. To get a more accurate understanding of how it began and where it’s going, we first need to highlight some of the key moments in this conflict and then dive deeper.
Net Neutrality Timeline
The Open Internet Order
As discussed earlier, the Obama administration passed the 2015 Open Internet Order (OIO), and Biden later restored it in July 2021. It officially reclassifies Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS) as being any “mass market retail service that provides the capability to transmit data and receive data from all or substantially all internet endpoints…”. It also covers anything that is the “functional equivalent” of that.
Again, the OIO put in place three significant rules:
- Internet companies can’t block access to legal content, services, applications, or devices that are not harmful. The OIO makes exceptions for what it describes as “reasonable network management.”
- ISPs can’t throttle or degrade the speed of lawful internet traffic based on applications, services, content, or devices that are not harmful. However, this provision is subject to a “reasonable network management” loophole.
- Internet providers can’t give paid prioritization to some lawful traffic over others. This effectively puts a stop to internet fast lanes and prevents ISPs from favoring affiliates over their competitors. This rule has no exception for network management.
Open Internet Order Overturned
When Ajit Pai’s FCC overturned net neutrality rules at the end of 2017, it was overturning the Open Internet Order. Pai described the Open Internet Order as “heavy-handed” and “a mistake.” He claimed the order limited innovation and investment in the expansion of broadband networks.
Opponents of net neutrality repeatedly stated, in an attempt to sway public opinion, that net neutrality rules would create “significant new costs” for consumers. It’s worth noting they never stated what these significant new costs would be. What they also failed to acknowledge was that without net neutrality, ISPs could charge both the consumers and services like Netflix extra for the same connection bandwidth and speeds.
With net neutrality overturned, the job of policing the internet fell to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) rather than the FCC. Where the FCC is solely focused on communications, the FTC oversees the entire US economy. There was (and continues to be) great doubt over whether this commission is equipped to police the internet in as effective a manner as the FCC could.
Furthermore, the FTC has limited rulemaking authority. Its enforcement power ends at the line of a company’s public comments, and whether the company has violated any US antitrust laws. Investigations into wrongdoing could take years. In essence, FTC control left ISPs with full, unchecked authority to dictate your internet use as they saw fit.
Fortunately, the Biden administration restored the net neutrality principles of the OIO on July 9, 2021. Read on for a glimpse into what you should expect if the US ever decides to repeal net neutrality again.
How Will the Internet Change Without Net Neutrality?
Without net neutrality protections in place, the US could function on a closed internet, completely privatized, and under the mostly unchecked jurisdiction of for-profit organizations. Changes to daily life will be slow, but massive shifts are possible.
Activity-based ISP Throttling
For starters, you may begin to notice a marked slowdown in services like YouTube TV or other streaming platforms that compete directly with cable television and their streaming subsidiaries (looking at you, Xfinity). So, if you’re one of the many people who’s cast out cable in favor of streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, you may soon find your ability to enjoy uninterrupted programming to be in jeopardy.
While governments can change their stance on net neutrality as they please, a VPN is your quick fix to get uninterrupted streaming. Your ISP won’t subject you to content-based throttling if it can’t see you’re visiting streaming sites. Try it today with our no-questions-asked 45-day money-back guarantee.
Return of “Internet Fast Lanes”
You could also see the return of ‘internet fast lanes.’ If Sprint makes a deal with Netflix for faster speeds on its network, users who want to use Netflix as their primary entertainment source would be forced to switch over.
While Republicans seem sure repealing net neutrality leads to decreased internet costs, you’ll actually see higher prices as a result, since you’ll be buying additional packages for your favorite services.
The End of Free Speech(?)
By giving large corporations so much control over online content, the US could eventually see censorship of free speech akin to what occurs in Russia. Without net neutrality, gateway corporations like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T will assume complete control of your internet traffic. They can manipulate the free flow of information, promoting the narrative and services they support.
Net Neutrality Protects Your Right to an Open Internet
The internet without net neutrality just won’t be the same. Big players will pay big money to ISPs to reach more people, influencing public opinion and stifling opposing voices.
Consider this — without net neutrality, streaming services like Netflix and YouTube wouldn’t have survived simply because ISPs would’ve kept restricting them for consuming too much bandwidth.
Don’t let changing governments and greedy corporations decide what content you can or can’t consume. Keep your internet habits and data traffic to yourself with a world-class VPN like CyberGhost. Use CyberGhost VPN to preserve your access to the open internet, without government restrictions or ISP prioritization, regardless of where the decision-makers stand.
What happens if we don’t have net neutrality?
Without net neutrality, ISPs can discriminate against web traffic based on the bandwidth consumed, the nature of the content, and business agreements with websites, apps, and services. They can degrade bandwidth or completely block access to some websites. Ultimately, repealing net neutrality would threaten openness and information accessibility across the internet, and stifle market competition.
If you’ve experienced speed drops during gaming, streaming, or torrenting, your ISP may be applying content-based throttling. That’s unfair and possibly illegal, depending on where you live. Take advantage of CyberGhost VPN’s 45-day money-back guarantee to keep your online activities private and bypass ISP throttling.
Is net neutrality a good thing?
Strict net neutrality rules preserve openness, accessibility, and free flow of information, which are founding principles of the internet. Without net neutrality, providers can simply degrade or block competitors’ services. This will eventually reduce competition and stagnate innovation and economic growth.
ISPs can also give preference to certain information sources to sway public opinion about crucial issues. They can block or censor content that goes against their or their investors’ or partners’ agendas. Net neutrality ensures ISPs don’t have too much control over who accesses what on the internet.
What can ISPs do without net neutrality?
Without net neutrality, ISPs can block content or give preferential treatment to certain information sources to influence public opinion. This can potentially promote internet censorship. A premium VPN like CyberGhost hides the websites you’re visiting from your ISP, so you get unrestricted internet access.
However, without net neutrality, small businesses and innovative applications will still remain at a disadvantage. That’s because network providers can improve speeds and user experience for their own apps and services. Bigger companies can also pay ISPs to promote access to, and reserve higher bandwidths for, their services.
Is there net neutrality in the US?
The US currently has net neutrality rules in place, though loopholes allow ISPs some control over your connection speeds. President Joe Biden signed a 2021 executive order restoring Obama’s 2015 Open Internet Order net neutrality rules once again (after Trump’s FCC repealed the order in 2017).
Don’t let political and legal back and forth keep you from enjoying optimal speeds for your favorite services. Get CyberGhost VPN and enjoy military-grade encryption for your internet traffic, so it stays private and safe from ISP throttling. We offer 24/7 Customer Support to help you keep maximum speeds every time you connect.
Leave a comment
Posted on 09/11/2019 at 17:46
It seems to me that your article examples give all the reasons that so called Net -Neutrality is NOT needed. I can not think of a single time, giving Government power that the Government hasn’t abused that power. You show that when the public finds out about an event, they either change companies or find ways to thwart the offender. Free-market competition is what the internet was founded on and with out that free-market freedom, we never would have gotten what we have today. When a company, such as Comcast abuses the free-market or charges too much, people leave the service and go to another. Then another new company pops up providing even more competition. Controllinl laws stifle free-markets. Competition controls the market. We do NOT need Government to control US>! Reread the article and see that every case was changed by outrage, not laws. Keep the internet FREE to use, not Free. There is no such thing as free. Some one pays. Profits drive invention. These are proven concepts. There is at this time a finite bandwidth.. Companies are looking for new ways to increase that band width. If you use more of the bandwidth than some one else, why shouldn’t you pay more? That is much better than throttling everybody so no one has enough bandwidth. Look what happened during the eighties when Gasoline became limited. No one could get as much as they needed. Any Net Neutrality law I have read, is neutral in name only ! If we are regulated the next regulation will be to throttle your ability to complain. No Government likes to be criticized.
Posted on 22/03/2019 at 04:24
Informative and well written. Keep up the good work, lets not become another country that gets spoon fed news the Goverment wants us to read.
Posted on 22/03/2019 at 11:06
Thanks for the feedback, Chad. I’m glad you enjoyed the article!
Posted on 21/03/2019 at 20:33
I wish you to could share with us your knowlege how to (if this is actually possible) block access to personal information. How to be up to date with quickly developing technology, new privacy software, new trends. Even your opinion on 5G network safety.
I believe all of us know Snowden, and we read internet news about other countries on daily bases..
…and more about privacy. Why are you asking, not asking but demanding to write below our names and email addresses? Don’t you think it’s ironic?
Posted on 22/03/2019 at 12:31
Hi John (if that is your real name) 😉
You’ll be pleased to know we have a lot of content in mind for the next few months. We plan to cover a lot of what you mention here, and much more to boot!
It’s great that you keep up to date on internet news from around the world, but we can’t take it for granted that everyone has the time to be so dedicated.
And of course, there are new Ghosties joining us every day who may not be as well versed. It’s important to help them too!
As far as the names and email addresses we ask for, you can type anything there. It doesn’t have to be your real name or a valid email address. I just tested this and even firstname.lastname@example.org worked.
Hope that helps!
Posted on 21/03/2019 at 18:32
Es wäre toll wenn ihr die Seiten auch in Deutsch verfassen würdet da ich Englisch weder schreiben noch lesen kann!
Ich glaube das es vielen Deutschen Gostis genau so wie mir geht.
Posted on 22/03/2019 at 11:02
Guten Morgen, Werner!
Unfortunately, that’s the full extent of my German language skills.
At the moment, there are no definite plans in place to translate the articles into other languages. Maybe at some point in the future, we will look at that option. Thanks for the suggestion!