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BizReport : Internet : June 20, 2019

Expert: How net neutrality repeal has hindered brands, consumers

It's been a year since the US Congress repealed Net Neutrality, and while their reasoning was that ISPs and other entities wouldn't change how consumers logged on, surfed, or found information, the revers has been true.

by Kristina Knight

NBC News has reported that Verizon has admitted to slowing California firefighters' internet speeds during the wildfires in August 2018, and wireless data costs are expected to skyrocket. We asked a digital expert how the repeal is actually impacting businesses - and consumers.

Kristina: How has the repeal of net neutrality impacted businesses over the past 365 days?

Francis Dinha, CEO, OpenVPN: With the repeal of
net neutrality, power to censor has basically been in the hands of the large corporate internet service providers (ISPs). Have businesses seen any drastic changes to their internet service the past year? The short answer is - no. But just because these corporations haven't grossly abused their power in the last twelve months doesn't mean they never will.

In an age of a deregulated internet, we need to look at the business models of ISPs and what they are trying to achieve. Many of these companies are making significant infrastructure investments by upgrading the necessary hardware; cell towers, cables, switches, and more. With business models focused on revenue, these companies will need to recuperate that investment somehow. As far as I can see, there are two potential ways they could do that: charge their customers, or charge the companies providing the content.

The concern with charging companies becomes a monopolization of content creation and distribution - which includes journalism. This has the potential to drown out important voices that had the guaranteed ability to share their message prior to the repeal. Charging customers, then, provides consumers the ability to "vote" with their dollars and determine for themselves the content they prefer.

Kristina: What are the steps organizations should be taking to protect their data privacy in light of the repeal?

Francis: Data and privacy protection won't change much with the repeal of net neutrality. Businesses - pre and post repeal - should make cybersecurity a top priority. There are solutions to circumvent the loss of net neutrality. The easiest, and most effective, solution are virtual private networks (VPNs).

VPN technology is always developing -- and with more cyber threats hitting the market every day, it's more important than ever, especially for companies who want to securely scale. A good VPN should provide both application security and network security; both are essential to keeping your data safe, because both perform key security roles. A great VPN will also provide granular controlled access for maximum security, because excessive access, especially for remote or third-party users, is a major security risk. But it's a risk that's easily mitigated with the right VPN.

VPNs allow businesses to "bundle" all their data across various services into one tunnel, thus removing the ISP's ability to discriminate against certain types of data. The concern with the loss of net neutrality is that ISPs are now legally allowed to deprioritize or even block businesses that need to use a VPN. Combine this with more consumers also turning to VPN to bypass net neutrality concerns - more American ISPs might take steps to block VPN use on their networks altogether. If this happens, organizations will have to react by using similar techniques in repressive countries to bypass censorship.

Kristina: Can you tell me more about the recent movement advocating for an open internet with the Save the Internet Act, in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already labeled "dead on arrival?"

Francis: Having grown up in Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and seeing what other countries like China, the UAE, and North Korea are doing to block content - I had (and continue to have) serious concerns about the loss of net neutrality in the U.S. I believe unfiltered access to the internet is a human right, and in an ideal world everyone would be able to access information on the web without hindrance or censorship. I worry these changes give too much control to corporations, who are focused on their bottom line, and not consumers' best interests.

I think that's what you're seeing with the recent push from many legislators and advocacy groups who support net neutrality. They have similar concerns to what I've expressed, and are fighting to ensure that their voices are heard and represented.

Tags: advertising, ecommerce, internet regulation, net neutrality, OpenVPN

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