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December 15, 2017

US net neutrality vote threatens internet freedom

The decision that has put power in the hands of internet service providers has sparked angry protests.

By Tom Ball

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States has voted to scrap rules on net neutrality, striking a blow against internet freedom.

Prior to the vote the rules stood as a bastion against internet service providers (ISPs) prioritising certain data, an action that could be taken against competitors for example. Without the rules in place, competitors could effectively be blocked or charged.

Controversy has surrounded the decision, with protestors turning out in droves to express discontent. Politics have further fuelled the outrage, with the vote directly going against the Open Internet Order put in place by Barack Obama.

US net neutrality vote threatens internet freedom

Harley Geiger, Director of Public Policy, Rapid7, said: “The principle of net neutrality has played an important role in providing users with equal access to digital content, empowering content creators of all sizes to compete on a more level playing field regardless of resources. Repealing net neutrality will undercut these opportunities and weaken full participation in the digital economy for small or independent content creators. We believe the FCC is going down the wrong path by repealing the 2015 Open Internet Order, and we support efforts in Congress to put net neutrality on permanent footing.”

While the issue seems as though it is a very modern conversation, but at the core the argument is rooted in law from 1934, Title II of the Communications Act.

Tim Erlin, VP of Product Management & Strategy at Tripwire, said: “The removal of net neutrality is likely to decrease transparency on the Internet, and less transparency will increase cybersecurity threats. As ISPs implement different behaviors for managing, filtering and altering content, we’re going to develop towards a bunch of different internets, instead of one Internet.”

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While the vote has sparked anger in the United States, the reaction is not mirrored in the UK; this is because the Open Internet Access regulation from the EU is in place.

As reported by Sky News, Till Sommer, from the UK’s Internet Service Providers Association, said: “The US is currently engaged in an important debate around net neutrality, one that is much more intense than over here in the UK… “We have strong standards backed up by regulations and we have a highly competitive broadband market that allows consumers to switch and choose the provider that best meets their needs.”

Regardless of viewpoint the decision will prompt major change to the internet, with it possible that it could end up being fundamentally different.

Tim Erlin, VP of Product Management & Strategy at Tripwire, said: “The removal of net neutrality is likely to decrease transparency on the Internet, and less transparency will increase cybersecurity threats. As ISPs implement different behaviors for managing, filtering and altering content, we’re going to develop towards a bunch of different internets, instead of one Internet.”

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