You can wait around for a Net Neutrality Bill that meets your standards or you can take action! What should you do? Anonymize your Internet Traffic! If your Internet Providers cannot tell where your traffic is going, what it is accessing, and where it originated then it is going to be very difficult for them to be anything other than neutral. Read on to find out how this is possible and how you can make it happen today.
Let’s start with the basics and just make sure we are all on the same page. What is Net Neutrality? Wikipedia has a great article on Net Neutrality and they define it as requiring that Internet Service Providers treat all data on the Internet equally. At the most basic level, this means that if a giant cable company (ahem, Comcast) or telephone company (ahem, AT&T and Verizon) also happened to own other smaller companies, and those smaller companies had competitors dependent on telecommunications, then those cable and telephone companies should not be able to discriminate. For instance, if Comcast felt threatened by “Cord Cutters” leaving cable entertainment for Netflix they could not punish or tax Netflix competition via data network policies.* According to the FCC, Net Neutrality regulations are a burden on society and they have implemented Internet Freedom by removing constraints from business. If that doesn’t convince you, the FCC has a convenient “Myth vs. Fact” post that contains zero information (unless you want to download documents).
CognitiveMetropolis believes we should support efforts like “SaveTheInternet” and engage in public discourse to try to affect change through our Senators and Representatives, both local and federal. However, we can all see that sometimes the pressure from business interests is too much for law makers to resist. Take note that Democratic Lawmakers in the California state legislature were no more immune to influence than Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C. The lesson is that this is not about your politics – it is about your freedom and you will have to take matters into your own hands if you want to protect Net Neutrality, your data, and Internet privacy.
So how can you take action other than contacting your political representatives? As we mentioned, you can anonymize your Internet activity! The issue of Net Neutrality highlights why privacy and anonymity are such important rights for all citizens. To disrupt Net Neutrality – to discriminate in data services – it is critical for Internet Service Providers to know what is in a packet of data, where it is going, and where it originated. Think for just a minute – if an ISP could not be sure where data is going, who originally sent it, or what is contained within it, how could they possibly make decisions about what to do with it? Should it be blocked? Should a higher rate be charged? Should it be slowed down? Did it originate on our network or another?
Instead, you should run Tor as a client in your home. Not only will it anonymize your traffic but it will create Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt on the part of Internet Providers. The fear would be that an unknown number of connections were escaping purview; an uncertain number of customers might be participating in forwarding data for other customers; there would be widespread doubt that any private home customers would actually be affected by discriminatory ISP data policies. Also, by running Tor as a client you increase the resilience of the network without the liability of being an “exit node” where illicit traffic might enter the Internet. Running Tor as a client is a great way to support Net Neutrality, increase your Internet and data privacy, and exercise your civil rights at the same time!
There are lots of ways to run Tor. Start with the Tor Browser, of course. But then, how will you install the Tor Browser on your Smart TV? How will you keep your Internet of Things devices from reporting where you are located and what you are watching and how much you are consuming through your WiFi connection? Your internet and data privacy now have a practical value – they prevent Internet Service Providers from knowing which services and sites you will pay more to visit!
*The Net Neutrality Debate conveniently ignores (for the most part) any discussion of the complex nature of public utilities and legislative oversight, which is at the core of the matter and the “Title II” FCC actions. In short, utilities are public services owned by the public for the public as an investment too daunting for private industry to undertake. Are telecommunication companies a public good? Should AT&T have been broken up via Antitrust in 1982? Should telecom firms be regulated as public goods? Without trying to answer explicitly, what if a compromise were proposed: Private companies are free to set their own network rules in exchange for all public subsidies to telecommunications firms instead being put toward free public municipal WiFi?