A lot has been happening over the past few weeks: Mark Zuckerberg appeared before congress to testify about Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook was found to quietly move about 1.5 billion users out of the reach of the new GDPR law, and Alibaba was recently reported to have overtaken Amazon as the world’s number one e-commerce site. However, a very important piece of news hasn’t gotten much coverage from the media: today, April 23, net neutrality dies.
The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality will start to go into effect today. In case you aren’t very familiar with it, the net neutrality law mandates ISPs to treat all data on the Internet the same way. In other words, an ISP cannot discriminate against, or throttle, any form of data relating to specific users or websites. With the repeal of net neutrality, however, things will change. ISPs will have the power to throttle and block content they do not like — although most ISPs promise that this power will not be abused, history shows that they are only paying lip service: Comcast has broken net neutrality laws before by throttling uploads to P2P applications and torrents, and, despite protests, it didn’t stop until it was compelled by the FCC to stop. AT&T was caught limiting access to FaceTime in order to give subscribers to its shared data plans preferential access, and Madison River Communications once restricted its customers’ access to rival Vonage.
Indeed, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely: when given complete power to determine what kind of content can be accessed, where, and when, you can be sure that ISPs — as they are wont to — will abuse this power. Not only will they abuse it for their own interests, but they will also abuse it for the interests of their bedfellows.
Now, while the media has been interestingly silent (or at least not as vocal) about the net neutrality repeal that goes into effect today, I think it doesn’t matter. Net neutrality is dead. Even if the repeal is eventually revoked, attempts will still be made for another repeal, again and again (as has always been the case) until it is eventually repealed. There is just too much at stake for the ISPs to give up. While there are very good reasons to fight the repeal, I think ultimately, besides simply fighting the repeal, equal focus should be placed on something else: educating web users and ensuring that they are savvy enough to circumvent the repeal should it eventually take place.
Here are some ideas:
1. Use a VPN service
The first common sense way to go about circumventing the net neutrality repeal is to use a VPN. Find a good VPN service (TNW recommends both NordVPN and Ivacy and has deals on them). However, using a VPN service is not as simple as it used to be. There are two key issues to pay attention to:
- The logging policy of a VPN service. As recently reported here on TNW, while most VPN services claim not to log your data, they do in fact log your data. While this might not seem like a big deal initially, any form of logging could lead to your activities being eventually traced to you. In other words: you are not safe. So, pay careful attention to the logging policy of any VPN service you use.
- Throttling of any and all VPN traffic. The second major challenge with using VPN services is that major ISPs could throttle VPN traffic — and with the net neutrality repeal, you can expect a trend of ISPs throttling VPN traffic. In fact, there are reports that this is already happening. Now, it will be difficult for ISPs to throttle all VPN traffic (because doing so is so complicated that it can affect traffic from “legitimate customers”), so you might have to trial a few services before deciding on which one to use. That said, some other recommendations in this article will come in handy.
2. Use the Tor network
Another alternative method for circumventing net neutrality repeal is by using the Tor network. That said, while Tor is an option it is not completely immune to being restricted by ISPs. With the repeal, ISPs have the option of throttling Tor or even completely blocking it. However, these restrictions can be circumvented by using bridges to connect to Tor.
3. Share other people’s IP address
You can also circumvent net neutrality repeal by sharing the IP address of other users from countries not affected. As it is today, while the repeal has practically gone into effect in the U.S., there are several other countries that have taken a stand against it. It is possible to anonymously transmit your data through the IP addresses of users from these countries. Services like IPSX facilitate sharing of IP addresses between users from different countries; this could be a single IP address from a country not affected by net neutrality, or a dynamic IP address from users from different countries, thereby allowing you access to data that would have otherwise been throttled without restriction.
4. Connect through I2P (Invisible Internet Layer)
I2P, also known as the Invisible Internet Layer, is a network layer that focuses on anonymizing and routing your network traffic through volunteer-run P2P communication. With over 55,000 computers distributed all over the world, it is going to be very difficult to monitor or throttle traffic going through I2P. I2P essentially builds an internal decentralized internet of its own, with traffic distributed across users all over the world, and is certain to give ISPs a run for their money post net neutrality repeal. Here’s a detailed guide on how I2P works.