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Much is being made about the news that Democrats in the Senate are now just one vote shy of reviving net neutrality rules. With the vote split at 50 apiece (49 Democrats, one Republican), a tally of 51 would push things over the edge and effectively restore the Obama-era rules that the FCC so infamously canned on December 14, 2017.
On the surface, this is a big deal for those of us who care deeply about an open and free Internet for all; for those of us who believe that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should adhere to regulations that protect smaller businesses from Internet “fast lanes” and pay-to-play platforms that favor wealthy corporations.
With this news, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and if you buy into the hype, you might be thinking now would be a good time to put the champagne on ice.
The reality, however, is far less optimistic.
Even if this vote goes through, and the Senate passes a bill to restore net neutrality, it still has to pass through a Republican-led House. And even if that happens, it then needs to be signed by President Trump, who, of course, holds the power to veto any piece of legislation that crosses his desk. Let’s not forget that Trump himself hired Ajit Pai as the new chief of the FCC, and Pai has always remained vocal about his desire to eliminate net neutrality. So it would be highly unlikely for President Trump to revert this law, regardless of whether the legislation passes.
Let’s be realistic, then. Net neutrality probably isn’t coming back (although that shouldn’t stop us from calling our Senators and making our voices heard. After all, 83% of voters polled before the FCC’s vote stated that they were in favor of keeping the regulation, highlighting quite how unpopular removing the law was in the first place—across both party lines.)
Times like these underline why we cannot simply rely on government and policy to uphold our digital right for a free and open Internet. We must therefore use the resources we have at our disposal to take matters into our own hands, utilizing technology to effectively bypass any restrictions put forth by the ISPs.
David Gorodyansky, our CEO here at AnchorFree, talked about this recently, announcing our Net Neutrality Survival Kit for businesses. By offering our Hotspot Shield VPN for free as an SDK, app developers can protect themselves against ISP throttling or data collection. And for the general consumer, our Hotspot Shield VPN already allows 500 million people around the world to avoid censorship and access online services blocked by unscrupulous governments and corporations.
The fact is, with net neutrality, you don’t have to rely on diplomacy, or even recently announced lawsuits that are attempting to block its rollback. There are now ways to protect yourself. And that’s a good thing: because despite Senators continuing the fight, their chance of winning remains decidedly slim.