Net neutrality rules shunted to states – users turn to VPNs

net neutrality

There’s a new reality for those who are concerned about the issue of net neutrality – just days ago, a federal U.S. court ruled in support of a decision by the FCC to decrease certain regulations on ISPs – and that leaves the doors open for these companies to conduct practice that, in the parlance of net neutrality activists, makes the Internet less fair.

The decision kicks net neutrality enforcement down to individual U.S. states, the majority of which have passed legislation against broadband throttling, or are considering such legislation in the near future.

But that’s cold comfort for users who live in states without adequate protections against ISPs controlling their traffic by slowing down broadband speeds according to what they’re doing on the Internet.

Ostensibly, people from both major political parties condemn the idea of broadband throttling, but while many prominent Democrats have argued for stricter federal rules, a battery of prominent Republicans have applauded the U.S. court decision to “deregulate.”

“The court affirmed the FCC’s decision to repeal 1930s utility-style regulation of the Internet imposed by the prior administration,” said FCC chair Ajit Pai.

“The court got it right and affirmed what anyone who has been paying attention to Washington’s net neutrality saga knows to be true: the internet is open, ISPs are investing to bring internet users the content they want, and we remain absolutely opposed to anti-consumer practices like blocking, throttling and anti-competitive paid-prioritization,” said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter, whose rationale seems to be that the regulation is not needed, because, assumedly, throttling is not going on.

Senators Roger Wicker and Kyrsten Sinema of the  Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation appear to agree that common-sense regulation is needed, but the gulf between various statements shows the spectrum of belief that will hobble consensus.

So what are users to do to protect themselves?

Experts point out that there is actually a pretty simple solution to illicit broadband troubling practices by ISPs.

VPNs are an effective shield against broadband throttling, because they abstract the user’s IP address, making it difficult or impossible for ISPs to conduct their nefarious throttling practices.

“A rock-solid VPN can shield your identity by assigning you a shared IP address, for example, which makes you indistinguishable from hundreds of other users elsewhere with the same IP,” writes Rae Hodge at CNet. “It can also sling your traffic behind a server in a totally different state or country, outside the reach of your state regulations.”

The consensus in the camp of politicians promoting net neutrality, though, is that users shouldn’t have to resort to VPNs or anything else to get egalitarian speeds across the Internet.

“It is more imperative than ever that Congress enacts my ‘Save the Internet Act,’” said Senator Edward Markey in a recent statement. “This legislation does exactly what the American people want — it restores the rules that ensure families aren’t subject to higher prices, slower internet speeds and even blocked websites because the big broadband providers want to pump up their profits. I call on Leader [Mitch] McConnell to stop the obstruction and bring to a vote on this legislation that passed House of Representatives in April. The future of the internet as we know it depends on it.”