Home News Repealing Net Neutrality: What Will That Mean for You and Cybersecurity?
Repealing Net Neutrality: What Will That Mean for You and Cybersecurity?

Repealing Net Neutrality: What Will That Mean for You and Cybersecurity?

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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

On November 21, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the repeal of the net neutrality rules set into place by former U.S. president Barack Obama. Pai’s announcement set off a passionate firestorm of public opinion and criticism, both for and against net neutrality.

CNBC says that a final FCC vote on repealing the rules is scheduled for December 14. The FCC plans to release a public draft three weeks before the vote.

What Is Net Neutrality and How Will Its Repeal Affect Consumers?

Net neutrality involves the fair and non-discriminatory treatment of all websites and data. Under the Obama rules, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had to treat all websites equally.

But according to journalist Hamza Shaban of The Washington Post, consumers’ experience on the Internet could change if net neutrality is repealed. Shaban notes, “Under Pai’s plan, Internet providers [would have] broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers see and use.”

If the repeal passes, for example, ISPs such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon could block, slow down or favor certain websites. ISPs could charge extra fees to website owners to ensure that their websites show up on mobile devices or desktop computers. You may also be asked to pay more for your broadband service and your ISP would have more control over which websites you see.

In addition, Shaban observes that “Broadband and wireless companies such as Comcast and Verizon applauded Pai’s move. But Internet companies and activists see the undoing of net neutrality as an invitation for corporate abuse, in which service providers block websites they do not like and charge Web companies for speedier delivery of their content.”

It would be difficult for consumers to switch to another broadband service due to the lack of competition. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “most Americans don’t have more than a handful of legitimate high-speed broadband options at home (the vast majority have only one or two). It costs many billions to build a big high-speed broadband service, so the ‘barriers to entry’ to the marketplace are high and there aren’t very many of them. That means customers often can’t switch if a big broadband provider starts messing around with their service.”

Repealing Net Neutrality Has Implications for Cybersecurity

Your cybersecurity will definitely be affected if net neutrality rules are repealed. According to Jeremy Gillula and Peter Eckersley of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, your cybersecurity could be impacted in five ways:

1. Your ISP could collect and store more data about you in repositories, which have the potential to be targeted by hackers.
2. Hackers could reach your data on encrypted websites through a “man-in-the-middle” attack.
3. More ads may appear as you’re browsing, potentially weakening the cybersecurity of websites you view.
4. Tracking tags could be put into every website you visit even if you delete cookies or enable Incognito mode, allowing companies and third parties to track your web activity and data.
5. More spyware could be added to your phone, which hackers could use as a pathway to get your data.

Will the Repeal Pass the FCC?

Although repealing net neutrality is controversial due to the limits it would place on free speech and fair market competition, it’s likely that the FCC will abolish it. The Los Angeles Times notes that the voting committee is split along partisan lines, with the majority of the committee favoring the repeal.

Could your experience using the Internet change significantly? Will you need more protection for your data as it travels through web-connected networks? That remains to be seen.

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

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