Net Neutrality and Internet Freedom

Meshnets, Blockchains, Encryption, Alternatives

Posted by Joe Blankenship on November 20, 2017


With the FCC heading to remove net neutrality in late 2017, it is important to consider the implications of such a move. On one hand, this move could lead to more aggressive and hegemonic oppression of marginalized groups by private corporations in the regulatory gap left by the FCC’s actions. On the other, this might finally push people around the world to abandon the old, decaying infrastructure of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 for something more distributed, resilient, and reflective of the needs for a 21st century Internet society. This is where key technologies that have existed for years, and have been discussed in relation to net neutrality, will become critical in this new (r)evolution: mesh networks; blockchains; encryption; and cyborg communities.

Moving Away From the Old

This sentiment is not new; in fact these thoughts have been floating around the Internet for quite some time. For example, the current state of blockchain adoption, disruption, and fetishism is largely due to the social and political movements behind the adoption of distributed architectures, strong encryption practices, and adherence to autonomous algorithmic governance. Mesh networking has been implemented in many parts of the world where largely Western Internet architectures are minimal or completely absent; it has also been used to assist grassroots efforts in bridging the digital divide in developed urban centers. Encryption practices in the public space are still largely absent (in consideration and practice) in the everyday lives of people who increasingly need to protect their digital identities. However, all of these practices sit atop the shaky foundations of an archaic infrastructure which was intended to serve out static documents using antiquated protocols that fail to meet the massive data and high-speed processing needs of 21st century socio-technological (cyborg) life. With technology becoming an embedded necessity in our lives and society, it is time to question how that technology can empower us instead of letting ourselves be controlled by it.

Towards the New

In light of the latest regulatory developments toward net neutrality and the Internet writ-large (with deep connections to economic and political realities), it is time for us to move towards an Internet that truly serves the needs of the many and their livelihoods in a wired world. This means putting the agendas of knowledge and education access at the forefront of accessibility issues that is presented in a way to connect disparate communities while simultaneously acknowledging differences in the 'why' of their required access. Projects like Web3 and IPFS are forwarding decentralized frameworks through which the Internet can be held and controlled by any person (this is in addition to many cryptocurrency and blockchain projects).

However, without breaking free of existing architectures and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), these systems still exist in several conditions of capture and submission. This is where Mesh networking using legally available, but citizen controlled, encrypted technologies can shift our dependencies from centralized control structures to those that are distributed and much more egalitarian. There are an increasing number of existing mesh hardware/software solutions that will allow people in any community to start liberating themselves from the shackles of ISP-controlled access and government-regulated activity. There are in fact several emerging solutions that not only provide encrypted, anonymous interactions via distributed mesh networks, but also provide incentives via tokenization of facilitation/usages of these systems.

Act Now

The bottom line is that if these systems are not serving the interests of the many, they are serving the interests of the few. If we cannot maintain some semblance of compromise and/or control to access and regulation of Internet infrastructure and services, we need to start taking initial steps to spur a shift in a neo-connected future.

Encrypt Everything

It is easier now more so than ever to encrypt your data, your operating systems, your mobile devices, and your communications. With services like Signal, you can easily encrypt your communications between people. With the increasing number of DIY tutorials, you can setup your own VPN service, encrypted cloud storage, and encrypted email servers. If you cannot or do not know where to start, there is a large community of people who are more than willing to help you. All you have to do is start looking and asking questions; it’s much easier than you think.

Create Noise

There are several server-, router-, and browser-based options for creating random, safe searches that essentially obfuscate your activity online. The hope is that this makes any surveillance or ‘anonymous’ data collection by ISPs useless. If anything, this makes their lives harder and costs them money.

Start Talking and Researching

Start talking to your neighbors, your co-workers, your families about how changes in regulation and corporate control are going to change your lives online and offline. If you’re not sure what this means, start researching it now before you lose what little freedom to access that you have. If surveillance of your Internet activity is responded to with direct action, ISPs and governments will listen; they are already listening.

At the very least

I’m urging you to think about the many things that we take for granted on a daily basis: smartphone usage, email, social media, ‘browsing the Web’. These are already being controlled by algorithms in the form of bots, advertisements, and UX/UI responsive design. However, there is power in knowing that you are a part of this system so you can start thinking about the system you actually want to be a part of.

If you want more information, there are several organizations who are actively engaged in these matters and can be contacted for more information:

Electronic Freedom Foundation
Fight for the Future
Internet Association
Demand Progress
Public Knowledge
Save the Internet
Many, many other concerned people like you :)

Please act now to either preserve what we have (e.g., net neutrality) or start working to build something new; the choice was always yours.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.