In the past year, few things have polarized the Net more than the discussion of net neutrality. It has been anything but neutral, and far from a discussion. It is more like a shouting match with neither side hearing the other. Reading much of the commentary leads me to believe that a not insignificant percentage of the combatants do not actually know what net neutrality is.
For a long time, there was a lot of confusion about the FCC’s stance on net neutrality. Their job was to make a determination on the issue. The FCC Commissioner was a former lobbyist for the cable companies. For a long time, it seemed he would rule in favor of his former employers. One group sent a message to the Commissioner to not flush their rights down the toilet, without a clear statement of what those rights were.
In a surprise move, the Commissioner ruled in favor of the strongest net neutrality regulations. This prompted the affected businesses to immediately sue in an effort to challenge the new rules. While Tech Heads are mostly giddy over the ruling, there are some concerns that are worth considering:
Securing The Open Web
How open do you really want the web to be? How open do you want anything to be? Open indicates free access to all. You don’t want your house to be open, or your financials, or medical information. So why would you want the web where you transact sensitive information to be open?
Net neutrality requires all web traffic to be treated equally. Carriers can’t charge more to deliver certain content faster, or handicap content from a competitor. Some lawmakers are unclear on how carriers can block unsolicited email, suspected scams, and security threats from sketchy content providers if all content is to be treated as equal: a proposition which most certainly is not true.
Whatever happens with net neutrality, our best defense as consumers is to use stronger passwords. At least, that makes it more difficult for the the identity thieves to win. Since no one can remember multiple, strong passwords, the best work around is to use a password manager. Some features to consider are:
- One-click login
- Keystroke encryption
- Cloud sync across the major platforms
Password managers take a bit of getting used to. Some are free with limited features. Some have an annual fee. No matter what happens with net neutrality, password managers are better than weak passwords on the open web.
Banning Bandwidth Bandits
From a carrier’s perspective, the worst thing you can actually do with the data you pay for is to use it. If it looks like you are going to actually use it, they will slow the data flow to a crawl, making you long for the days of the landline modem. If you dare to watch Netflix with that bandwidth, you are public enemy #1 in their eyes.
The problem is they claim that bandwidth is a limited resource. Some agree. Some vehemently disagree. The shouting continues. If bandwidth hogs (anyone who uses the bandwidth they paid for) are allowed to stream video and torrents, especially during peak hours, there will not be enough bandwidth left for average people who just want to surf the web.
If true, that’s a problem. Carriers want to charge a higher rate to those who use a lot of bandwidth. Net neutrality will not let them do that. Charging more for the same service seems fundamentally unfair, unless you are a carrier with the opportunity to increase your bottom line.
Where money changes hands, there will always be tension between the hands giving the money and the hands receiving it. When the debaters have shouted themselves hoarse, it still just comes down to money. Consumers want to keep more of it, while carriers want to take more of it. This is not about civil rights, but economics and politics. When has economics and politics ever not been polarizing?