This Thursday, the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) repealed net neutrality rules, sparking an outcry among startups, NGOs, but also the public in general, in the US or abroad.
Among the louder proponents of net neutrality are VPN providers, who weren’t short on words in criticising the FCC’s decision.
VPN provider IPVanish described FCC chairman Ajit Pai as someone who is “proven to make decisions only at the behest of broadband conglomerates.” Commenting on his comedy sketches regarding net neutrality, IPVanish calls his actions a “blatant condescension and disrespect towards the concerns of citizens in the face of his role”
NordVPN was also quick to react, saying repealing net neutrality rules gives broadband providers way too much power.
“This move allows broadband companies to potentially reshape the online experiences of American citizens,” it says in a blog post. However, the company doesn’t believe the repeal will go through without a fierce fight from the opposition, which includes “Democrats, activists and consumers”.
“Before the new order is even approved, consumer groups are already preparing to challenge it in court,” it said. “Whatever the outcome of this complicated and long-drawn debate, now that the rollback plan is underway, you should consider using a VPN.”
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Tweeting about the repeal, TunnelBear VPN service compared the future internet with cable TV. “Big companies – not you – decide what you see,” it says.
ExpressVPN also expressed its concern: In a statement to TechRadar Pro, the company’s Vice President, Harold Li, says the decision “strikes at the very heart of the free and open internet”, but adds that Americans “won’t take this lying down” and “will continue to hold both the government and ISPs accountable for continuing to uphold the principles of net neutrality”.
Another VPN provider, Goose VPN, shared the same sentiment as its rivals: “We’re disappointed by yesterday’s decision to change net neutrality in the US. This is a step in the wrong direction for internet freedom in the age of innovation and creativity. [We] stand with others in opposition to the FCC ruling”.
The bigger picture
Net neutrality is the idea that ISPs (internet service providers) need to treat all data passing through to its consumers equally. Eliminating net neutrality means that ISPs could decide to give some internet services (like video streaming services, for example) a so-called internet fast lane, speeding the service up. That would mean shorter buffering times and less lag.
Even though it sounds nice on paper, this would also mean that those service providers that can’t afford to pay ISPs for the fast lane, would be stuck in the slow lane.
This also means that ISPs could start bundling some internet sites as services and offering them as they offer TV packages (you could have, for example, a social media pack where you pay for access to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, without having access to other sites).
The FCC commissioners voted 3-2 along party lines. The repeal of the net neutrality rules, which were put into place two years ago, doesn’t mean the internet will implode on itself tomorrow. There is still time to react, as the battle will now shift to the courtroom.
VPN providers have a vested interest in the net neutrality debate as the sales of their services are usually buoyed by any attempts to stifle internet access in any markets.