The United States Court of Appeals recently decided against the FCC in a case about net neutrality. (Nilay Patel of The Verge wrote a good introduction to the issue and summary of how we got here.) Reading through the article, it sounded like internet access was going to get worse before it got better. But I wasn’t truly alarmed until I read this article from Matt Drance:
The privacy implications are just as chilling. A discriminatory model bakes surveillance into the way ISPs do business. Sure, your provider can snoop on your traffic right now, but nothing in the fundamental concept of delivery requires or justifies that they do. With this environment in place, the implications for privacy and anonymity tools like Tor should be obvious: they would be banned in the provider’s terms of service (how else can they know how much to charge and what to block?) and lobbyists would waste no time making them illegal.
If we had all been honest with ourselves—and by “we” I mean the FCC—the internet providers would be regarded as dumb pipes; commodities on the same level as the electrical companies. Since that wasn’t politically feasible, though, we now have to worry about the loss of online anonymity at a time when that prospect has never been more chilling.