Net neutrality ensured that every internet service provider (ISP) treated all online data equally. But everything changed in the US following the repeal by the FTC in 2018. This meant that smaller businesses, start-ups, and users could find themselves in a slow lane while large corporations grab all of the opportunities via “paid prioritization.”
Most of the online community protested that the internet should remain without censorship, and ISPs needed to be stopped from throttling your internet speed. But the death of net neutrality also gave some fuel for the rise of VPNs (such as NordVPN) which allow users and smaller businesses get around net neutrality.
As it stands, your online experience could depend entirely on which state you live in. The good news is that VPN enables you to shield your identity by slinging your traffic through a server in a different country outside of the regulations in your state.
What is net neutrality?
There are always two sides to any argument in life, and net neutrality is no different. The fight between consumers and their ISPs is a little more complicated than many realize. On the positive side, net neutrality offers complete freedom of expression where the end-user decides what blog, website, or streaming service they can access.
The internet we have all grown up with provides citizens all over the world with an equal digital land of opportunity. A level playing field where everything is delivered as fast as your internet connection allows. In a nutshell, net neutrality stops the introduction of internet fast lanes and prevents ISPs from charging content creators for superior bandwidth. Without it, ISPs could also sell your browsing data to marketing companies.
However, ISPs will argue they are not the bad guy. Our insatiable thirst for bandwidth-hungry video streaming and large downloads means they don’t have the resources to innovate. If they had the option to charge the big five tech companies for their resource-intensive services, they could invest in implementing improvements that would enhance our online experience. Allegedly.
ISPs also argue it would enable them to better police the internet. They could stop adult content from getting into the wrong hands and eradicate illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing. Ultimately, your stance on net neutrality will depend on whether you are happy to have an uncensored internet for the global community and accept that freedom of speech has positives and negatives.
Using a VPN to get around net neutrality abuse
Can a VPN get around net neutrality? The answer is yes, but there are a few things that you need to be aware of before blindly choosing a VPN service for you or your business in this ongoing battle between you and your ISP.
The game of cat and mouse begins the moment a VPN encrypts and disguises your Internet activity to prevent your ISP from seeing what you are doing.
Although scrambling your data blinds your ISP from monitoring your online activity, they might be able to see if you are repeatedly connecting to a VPN Server. But many businesses provide their remote workers with VPNs for security purposes. The ISP must be able to prove you are deliberately avoiding the measures they have put in place before they can act accordingly.
Some VPNs are better than others. Before choosing a VPN, you need to ensure that it will not give away any clues to your ISP. Check that there is a strict no-logs policy in place along with leak protection. If you are serious about using a VPN to avoid net neutrality, you also need to ensure that there is strong encryption and advanced security features.
Services like NordVPN or ExpressVPN meet all those requirements and more.
Can ISPs throttle VPN traffic?
If you follow the rules above and choose your VPN provider carefully, you can stop an ISP from throttling your VPN connection. Your ISP will only see that you connecting to a VPN server.
If you choose the wrong provider, your ISP may soon detect that you are connecting via a VPN and automatically activate the throttling process until you turn it off again. Predictably, free VPN and proxy services are easy pickings for your ISP to handle.
Thankfully there are some handy online guides that will help you stop ISP throttling for good. Just remember to do your own research and remember the golden rule that if you buy cheap, you will probably end up paying twice.
I live in a country without net neutrality. Do I still need a VPN?
How other countries deal with net neutrality outside of the US varies significantly from region to region. Countries without net neutrality such as Russia and China are often accused of using anti-consumer practices. A popular tactic is to offer free traffic to select websites with more expensive data plans.
Thankfully we have moved away from hinting that only criminals and people with something to hide use VPNs. The reality is that regardless of whether you have net neutrality where you live, a VPN can provide greater protection and freedom when online.
There is an increasing awareness of protecting our personal data and privacy online. Setting your Facebook account to private, clearing your cookies every day, or using incognito mode on your browser is no longer cutting it for users. But you don’t have to forfeit anonymity every time you connect to the internet.
We already know that many ISPs compile browsing logs from their users and sell them to advertising companies. It’s your data that enables advertisers to tailor their content directly to entire regions. A VPN can both enhance and protect your online experience.
Our increasingly digital world is tearing down geographic barriers and restrictions that determine what you can read, view, and hear. In an age where technology is bringing the global community together and encouraging seamless collaboration, why would anyone want to put walls of restrictions back up?
Tech writer and privacy advocate
Julie is a firm believer in equal rights for everyone. She is a traveler and blogger, focusing her efforts on exposing censorship and discrimination around the world. She wants to hold corrupt governments and shady companies accountable by writing investigative articles and helpful guides.