The term “net neutrality” is making the news a lot right now and it’s getting a bit muddied with all the PR that’s being put out ahead of new changes in the FCC rules. The basic idea of net neutrality is that your ISP has to be neutral in terms of the levels of service it provides for any site that you visit. It cannot, for instance, give you faster access to sites that the ISP has a vested interest in and cut service to sites that may be financial competitors for your ISP.
That basic principle and the implications of changing the rules surrounding it have been clearly illustrated by a deal made between Netflix and Comcast. The media has been using the term “fast lane” a lot in reference to this deal and net neutrality in general, and that term is more troublesome than some might think.
The basic idea behind the fast lane is that services that consume a lot of bandwidth—such as those that stream video—would pay ISPs to have faster delivery speeds over their networks. This cost, of course, could easily be passed along to consumers, thereby increasing the profits that ISPs make off of their subscriptions. Those high-bandwidth sites that could not afford to pay the ISPs would end up having their content delivered at slower speeds—buffering, low quality video, etc.—putting them at a disadvantage compared to the big players in the Internet world.
One of the things that’s been brought up in objection to all of this is that the US already has lousy Internet speed compared to many other nations, and US consumers pay more for their services than do people in those nations with blazing speed. Essentially, the ISPs want to charge customers more for service that is better and cheaper in other nations.
Netflix and Comcast’s deal has made all the news, but what about USENET? Certainly, that might be service condemned to the slow lane if the new FCC rules go through.
SSL connections defeat throttling attempts. The traffic cannot be read by the ISP and, therefore, they cannot give it preferential treatment or slow it down based on their deals with the service providing the content being accessed. If you don’t have SSL on your USENET service now, you should seriously consider upgrading.
For other types of traffic, a VPN can help you enjoy the free Internet. VyprVPN put out a helpful infographic that explains all of this. The information they provide also applies to SSL-secured USENET connections.
USENET very well may be one of the services that ISPs want to throttle. It would be wise to assume this is the case. If you’re not sure whether or not your USENET access is SSL protected, your provider should have information and instructions for hooking up to a secured server on their site.
If the new rules are adopted, the FCC will have to take and respond to public comment on those rules before they’re formally passed. The EFF will have a streamlined way to contact the organization to allow you to make your voice heard. Make sure you check their site out this month, as the tool to comment will be made available when it becomes necessary.