On April 23, parts of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality went into effect. Implications of the repeal could include Internet Service Providers (ISPs), (i.e. Verizon, AT&T, Comcast), creating legal ‘fast lanes’ and ‘slow lanes’ for the websites of their choice, or blocking certain websites they don’t like or agree with, effectively giving ISPs control over what content we can view. This challenge to the integrity of the World Wide Web has created ripples from the state level to the individual, as the nation grapples with how to retain internet autonomy and privacy post-net neutrality.
While states have introduced new legislation to maintain regulatory rigor, some industry experts suggest that individuals could potentially circumvent the restrictions of ISPs by adopting tools such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)1. When a user connects to a VPN, their Internet traffic gets routed through an alternative tunnel, so their ISP is unable to determine which websites the person is trying to access - and therefore, can't control the user's speed based on the site or content one is trying to access.
Edison Trends examined anonymized and aggregated VPN subscriptions to determine whether Net Neutrality repeal efforts may have influenced the adoption of virtual private networks across the nation.
1A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect remote users to a company's private, internal network. A VPN secures the private network, using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.