Net Neutrality is dead, but clean and fast web browsing is still possible with tools like Ghostery
The death of net neutrality
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) repeal of net neutrality legislation, which required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to treat all online content and data equally, began on June 11, 2018. The latest net neutrality rules from 2015, enacted by the Obama administration, ensured that ISPs would not block, censor or charge more for certain types of content. This assurance is over, and net neutrality advocates argue that the repeal of these rules gives ISPs too much control over how content is delivered, and subsequently consumed.
For example, without net neutrality, ISPs may choose to censor certain content or require online content providers to pay additional fees to be part of the Internet “fast lane”. And what happens if you can’t pay these additional fees? Well, then you get placed in the so-called “slow lane”. This process of separating data transmission into two distinct lanes is known as throttling.
What does this mean for you?
You might be reading this blog post and thinking to yourself: Okay, so content providers will be affected by the repeal of these rules, but what does this mean for me? The 2015 regulatory rules were meant to address the rapid evolution of the Internet. They not only prohibited blocking certain websites and apps, censoring content and throttling data transmissions, they also stopped ISPs from demanding consumers pay premium fees to be part of the fast lane, which would consequently force those who don’t pay these premiums into the slow lane. Those in favor of net neutrality are concerned that without these regulations in place, ISPs may begin to function akin to cable providers, where services are sold in bundles, with premium content bundled together at a higher price point.
It will take some time to see the full effects of this change. In May, the Senate passed a measure to repeal the FTC’s recently adopted rules and most recently, many of these senators pushed House Speaker Paul Ryan to schedule a vote on this matter. By the end of May, 29 states had introduced bills aimed at preserving net neutrality for their respective constituents. Some of these bills have since failed and others are still pending — how things will fully shake out is unclear right now.
What can you do?
You might consider using a product like Ghostery, which provides cleaner, faster and safer web browsing by blocking ads and trackers and removing clutter from pages to speed up page loads. A recent Ghostery and Cliqz study, entitled “The Tracker Tax: the impact of third-party trackers on website speed in the United States”, looked at how the presence of these trackers on websites affects page performance for the top 500 websites in the United States, as determined by Alexa. The study found nearly 90% of page loads had at least one tracker on them and over 20% had 50 or more trackers.
These trackers have a measurable impact on page performance: The study revealed that on average, websites take more than twice as long to load when trackers are not blocked (19.3 seconds), compared to when the Ghostery browser extension is used to block all trackers (8.6 seconds). What does this mean? You spend an extra 10 seconds per load when trackers are present on the sites you visit.
While the ultimate impact of the loss of net neutrality is still to be determined, tools like Ghostery ensure optimal website performance. Ghostery also offers invaluable insight: knowing what is happening on the websites you visit, why they are slowing down and having granular control to block trackers and speed up your page loads is one step towards improving online experiences for Internet users. We here at Ghostery think it’s a necessary step, and perhaps even more important at this particular moment in time.
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