Tips & Advice

Worried about net neutrality? Consider a VPN.

Charlotte Empey, 12 February 2018

The repeal of net neutrality laws gives your ISP more control over your internet. A good VPN will help you take that control back.

You’ve probably heard by now that, in December of 2017, the FCC voted to repeal the net neutrality laws put in place in 2015. What does that mean to you? Net neutrality classified the internet as a utility that could be regulated, and the primary regulation prevented Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the US from giving preference to certain websites and services while hindering or blocking others. Basically, it required ISPs to treat all internet data equally.

The repeal of net neutrality means that ISPs can now create so-called “fast lanes” to improve the performance of particular services while slowing down (or throttling) others. Your ISP could also flat-out block access to competing services or to news/political/opinion websites that don’t line up with its own agenda.

We’re not saying that these kinds of activities will definitely happen, but they could. And if they do, a VPN can help.

Download Avast SecureLine VPN

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, sets up a secure, encrypted connection between you and a VPN server that prevents everyone on the other side of that connection, including your ISP, from seeing anything you do online—what sites you have visited, what you’ve sent, what you’ve received, and where you were located when you did it. No matter what type of device you are using.  

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It’s a great tool to protect you against cybercrime (especially when using public Wi-Fi hotspots) and to keep ISPs from tracking (and selling) your personal usage data.  But VPNs could also prove beneficial in counteracting any net neutrality games that your ISP might try to play.  

The premise is really quite simple: if you use a VPN and your ISP can’t see what websites and network services you access, then it can’t block them or slow them down. The ISP has no idea if you’re streaming movies, listening to music, or checking your favorite news site; all it can see is an IP address from the closest VPN router. Essentially a VPN forces your ISP to treat all your data equally again, which is what net neutrality was all about.

Of course, your ISP could fight back by trying to block or throttle the VPN. Some VPN protocols are easier to block than others: the older PPTP protocol can be blocked, but the newer, more robust OpenVPN cannot. The more likely approach would be to throttle the speed of everything that comes through your VPN, which would slow down all of your internet services but still would prevent the ability to block specific websites. This approach presents its own challenges, though.

When it comes to the issue of net neutrality, many questions remain. A number of lawsuits have been filed to fight the repeal, and Congress may very well pass laws that put at least some net neutrality protections into place. In the meantime, though, you should pay close attention to any changes that your ISP makes to your service agreement, and you should consider a strong VPN like Avast SecureLine VPN—which will help keep the internet wide open while also keeping your privacy firmly intact.