Knowledge & Insights

The Life Span of Network Neutrality and How it Pertains to Cyber Security

This year, 2017, the term network neutrality turned 14 years old, although the policy as we know it to be now is only 2. The same year of the term’s creation in 2003, Myspace and Skype also entered the world. And, by that time LinkedIn had entered its second year of existence and AOL instant messenger entered its sixth. Facebook and Flickr were born the following year in 2004.

The early 2000’s was therefore no doubt, a pivotal time regarding the development of the internet. While AOL instant messenger has just said its farewell this year, signifying the conclusion of a 20-year life span, and Myspace has declined in popularity, Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Flickr have only grown in prevalence.

For net neutrality, however, it wasn’t until 2010 that it was gifted with more meaning. The concept itself developed and is today best described as a regulation ensuring that internet service providers (ISPs) treat all data on the internet the same. This means an ISP cannot discriminate or charge by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. This definition was fastened to net neutrality when the Federal Communications Commission, also known as the FCC, submitted the Open Internet Order of 2010 which became the first ever American net neutrality rule.

However, in 2014 the D.C. Circuit overturned the 2010 policy which forced the FCC to return to the drawing board and re-evaluate the policy in place. However, a year later, the FCC was able to create a policy that would be upheld by the D.C. Circuit, and it was. This is the policy that has been in place since. With the change in administrations and the corresponding leadership, the FCC then announced that they would seek to repeal this 2015 policy, which took place today.

When net neutrality was first implemented, it was intended to prohibit ISP’s such as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc. from having the power to filter content or intervene in the customer’s online experience in any way. However, ultimately, the debate of whether net neutrality should exist rekindled when the FCC made the announcement that they would seek to repeal the two-year-old policy. The debate essentially has two sides with one side believing in the regulation of the internet and those who believe that the internet is best left without it.

As with anything, there are always concerns and in this case, there are many regarding cyber security. Essentially, now that the ISP’s would gain the ability to retain consumer’s information, they could potentially snoop on consumer traffic to make money from the browsing history, insert advertisements into browsers (more so than now), and potentially access personal information that may even be stored on phone logs through a spyware that would then be transmitted to third parties. However, on the other side of it, it is argued that the competition fostered amongst the ISPs will encourage ISPs to offer the best deals to their consumers meaning better prices, limited advertisements, and heightened security. It is, however, difficult to fully predict how everyone, ISP’s, consumers, and hackers alike, will respond.

Although today’s vote was for the repeal of net neutrality, the policy has not yet reached the end of its life span. Even after it is finalized and implemented, it will most likely resurface in the years to come.

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