ISP blocking of websites and downloadable web content is a very controversial subject at the moment. In January of 2014, the FCC lost a bid in the US federal court system to implement anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules which would somewhat handcuff ISP’s in their ability to restrict content. The blow to the FCC’s so-called Open Internet Order is troubling because it directly impacts Internet freedom in the United States, a locale not typically considered to be a hotbed of Internet censorship.
There are some facts about ISP blocking that you need to be aware of, like how ISP’s are using blocks to actually steer you toward certain service providers, and you also need to know how to bypass ISP blocked websites.
The Open Internet Order
The Open Internet Order was created by the FCC to establish network neutrality and make it illegal for ISP’s to block services or charge content providers for access to end users. Here’s an example. The FCC order would prevent companies like Sprint or Verizon from giving customers faster connection speeds to services like Netflix and Hulu in exchange for payment from these companies. It would also prevent companies from blocking rival providers that offer video or telecommunication services in direct competition to its own services.
The goal of the FCC was great. It basically was to limit the opportunities of ISP’s to dictate how their users receive content. You see, in the United States the goal is not so much to restrict web traffic as it is to direct it. Certain ISP’s are receiving kickbacks from content providers to use blocks that will compel users to use a specific service.
Unfortunately, Verizon challenged the FCC order in court and won. ISP’s are currently allowed to implement blocks as they see fit.
Your Internet freedom at risk
So, what is at stake here for the everyday Internet user? The power of choice. Those who believe in Internet freedom don’t accept that ISP’s should be allowed to block or restrict websites because the technology can be used to shepherd users and remove their power of choice. As in so many endeavors which involve technology, one only needs to follow the money to determine why freedoms are often impinged.
When Nikola Tesla challenged the great Thomas Edison’s idea of how electricity should be delivered to homes in the United States, his entire reputation was sullied by interests who stood to make less money if Tesla’s methods were accepted. The same thing is happening with the Internet today. Prohibiting ISP’s from blocking websites will cut into the pockets of some major players like Verizon and AT&T. These companies spend a lot of money to make sure that current laws regarding ISP blocks stay in place.
The victim at the end of this money trail is you, the Internet user. The current laws regarding ISP blocks can severely limit your power of choice and how you access content, especially downloadable content from media providers. Many people view ISP blocks as a disturbing trend that closely resembles the telecommunications monopoly that existed in the US prior to the government’s deregulation of AT&T
Bypass ISP blocks
Once again, the importance of VPN technology becomes apparent when one considers the best way to avoid and bypass ISP blocked websites. The thing is, this aspect of VPN’s is now becoming important in the US whereas before most people chose to use a VPN to bypass ISP blocks in other countries.
The state-owned ISP’s of many countries, particularly those in the Arab region, have been using blocks for a long time to restrict web content that is considered objectionable on moral or political grounds. Expats finds this particularly troubling because it can eliminate their ability to use Skype or similar VoIP services to maintain an affordable link with their families. These individuals have been using a VPN accounts successfully to bypass these blocks and fully access the Internet while working abroad.
But now, those who never leave the US are also starting to realize how important a VPN is for Web browsing in the states. Not only does a VPN increase the level of security one has on their Internet connection (and this was recently made even more important by revelations about the Heartbleed bug), it also allows one to use the Internet with a degree of anonymity. With the defeat of the Open Internet Order, ISP’s have now been given the green light to block websites at their own discretion. This makes having a VPN a near necessity.
Can you see the implications of the court’s decision to uphold an ISP’s right to block websites? The potential is now there for wide scale censorship of Internet content by ISP’s. Smart people will take action now to bypass ISP blocked websites before these providers exploit the existing law.