Right now, there’s an almighty tussle going between the telcos and the Internet giants over changes to Net Neutrality rules.
It’s an issue on which the EU and the USA are diametrically opposed. The current US administration favors the vested corporate interests of telcos while the EU is more concerned with maintaining free market competition and protection of consumer privacy rights.
The stakes are high.
Changes to the current rules will mean telcos and internet service providers (ISPs) are longer be obliged to treat all web content equally.
The best web content in terms of available speed and ease of access may only be accessible at a premium while the surfing habits and purchase histories of average customers may be sold to the highest bidder.
For customers who value privacy, VPNs are a great way to avoid website traffic analysis and preserve secure Internet connectivity.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net Neutrality is essentially a set of data privacy regulations agreed by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late last year that stops ISPs from selling information about their customers Internet surfing and browsing habits to advertisers.
It also requires them to treat access to all Internet content equally regardless of value or source.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web has described the Trump administration’s decision to allow ISPs to sell customer Internet data to the highest bidder as “disgusting” and “appalling”.
Telcos Bound by Red Tape
It’s true that regulations governing telecoms companies have been tight.
By comparison, web companies have benefitted from a lighter touch regulatory framework.
This has helped the likes of Apple, Amazon, Mozilla and many others to build innovative and hugely profitable services companies.
Some of these have made inroads into broadband providers’ traditional revenue base.
It should be remembered, however, that back in the 1990s the telcos also operated in a similar light touch regulatory environment.
Their response to the Internet in its early days was to resist change and innovation while taking every opportunity to maximize profit at their customers’ expense.
Support for the Little Guy
In addition to enabling countless start-ups to grow and thrive, strong net neutrality protection allows people to mobilize and come together in times of crisis.
It’s the closest thing that small companies and consumers have to Internet rights.
When these rights are threatened people, organizations and companies unite in a common cause to fight back against faceless corporate multinationals.
Even now several major Internet companies are planning to stage a “Day of Action” in protest against the dismantling of Net Neutrality – legislation that is synonymous with protecting consumer Internet rights.
Unlike current United States policy which seeks to uphold the values of corporate America, the European Union values privacy first.
So much so, that the EU has even embraced the notion of “the right to be forgotten” as a principal right, entitling individuals to have certain data deleted so that third persons can no longer trace them.
The ways in which the EU and the United States deal with issues of basic human rights to privacy are so different that the EU has decided it cannot trust the US privacy laws to matching its own.
Attitudes to privacy between the two could not be further apart.
It’s a fundamental cultural separation that impacts cross-border data agreements like Privacy Shield and the upcoming GDPR legislation that govern where and how data on EU citizens is stored in the US.
No doubt this is a debate that will rumble on for some time to come.
In the short term, it does look like ISPs will be allowed greater freedom to market customer data.
While this may seem an invasion of privacy, it’s worth remembering ISPs can only sell anonymized data. Web companies like Google and Facebook do this already.
For customers concerned about these changes one of the best tools for keeping data private is a business-grade VPN.
A VPN lets individuals remotely connect to databases, email applications and cloud-based resources via the web in private. Traffic passing across the connection is encrypted, effectively shielding it from ISPs and other third parties.
In summary, proposed changes to Net Neutrality have aroused strong opposition.
For major Web companies and others who believe it threatens fundamental Internet ideals – such an individual’s right to privacy and a level playing field for start-ups and innovation – the stakes could not be higher.
For customers that value privacy, VPNs are an important tool for safeguarding against the possibility of intrusion.
A VPN can remotely connect to customers and business services via the Internet. All data is encrypted and content stays secure and private.