How would you feel if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) suddenly required additional monthly payment to gain full speed access to popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu? What if peer-to-peer traffic like Bittorrent were suddenly slowed down to a crawl or even blocked all together and the only way to bypass the block was with VPN service?
With net neutrality (almost) dead to the world, all of these scenarios are surprisingly possible.
This past week on Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the FCC did not maintain the authority to restrict mobile and broadband Internet Service Providers from blocking or ultimately interfering with user’s web traffic and applications.
So exactly what does this mean? For starters, companies like Verizon who actually sued the FCC over these rules would have full reign to decide who gets the best web access and what content is throttled. This could literally lead to internet “fast lanes” where users are charged a toll to get premium streaming content at top speeds. The result of these actions could even cause a fork in popular web access, separating the big name providers from the start-ups.
Even worse, internet service providers could play “favorites” and shell out large amounts of money to gain exclusive access to certain brands. Imagine a major cell provider approving faster web access for one mobile phone manufacturer, while only providing standard speeds to other brands. This may sound far-fetched, but in theory it could happen with no laws being broken.
We have been down this road before.
In 2007, US based bittorrent users discovered that Comcast, one of the nation’s biggest cable internet service providers, was blocking several basic, legal Internet technologies enabling peer-to-peer internet traffic. In response to these complaints, the FCC ordered Comcast to stop shaping and throttling bitorrent traffic. Comcast eventually appealed to the D.C. Circuit, and that court ruled in 2010 that the FCC lacked jurisdiction in it’s actions.
Most major ISP’s did put out a recent statement saying there were no immediate plans to change any of their services as a result of the court decision. One can’t help but wonder though if some of them are just waiting to see how things play out in the Supreme court, where the final decision will be handed down.
Net Neutrality & VPN Services
Some have argued that further degradation of net neutrality could possibly open the door for Internet Service Providers to begin blocking and regulating VPN services. While this is only speculation, anything is possible. In theory, providers would have the ability and oversight to step in and throttle/block some (but not all) VPN protocols. One only has to look at current examples of ISP censorship in countries like China and Iran to see that this type of filtering is not entirely effective. OpenVPN obfuscation techniques and services like SSTP VPN and SSH tunnel services will make it virtually impossible to single out and block.
TorGuard is committed to continue rapid development and expansion of its “Stealth” OpenVPN services to ensure clients worldwide retain unrestricted access to the internet, regardless of geographical location or ISP.