Boycott ISPs that abuse privacy, net neutrality

After Congress repealed the FCC’s broadband privacy rules two weeks ago, new Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai promised that the personal information they give to their ISPs would continue to be, well, private. Indeed, Pai said that he planned to work with the Federal Trade Commission to police ISPs around privacy issues.

However, many believe that this will not only fail to provide effective broadband privacy protections, but will also come at the cost of removing the FCC’s net neutrality rules. As you may recall, net neutrality prohibits ISPs like Verizon and Comcast from picking winners and losers on the open internet. Indeed, we could be heading for a day where the FTC actually won’t be able to regulate ISPs at all.

At the end of the day, these changes are really about placing trust in the government and the ISPs that they won’t deny or throttle specific internet services, including cloud services, over others. It’s also about placing trust that our use of cloud services or other internet services won’t be monitored for whatever reason. Trust us, right?

As cloud computing moves toward a trillion-dollar market, we are facing the fact that the open internet is how these cloud services get to users. They typically flow through an ISP, and that ISP’s ability to deal with those services equally is important to enterprises, not only in the United States but all over the world.

Moreover, if ISPs collect data to use for their own purposes or sell to others, enterprises could find that down quarters, pending lawsuits, and even unannounced successes are easy to figure out because that internal information has been monitored by the ISPs and sold or hacked.

Enterprises would have to encrypt everything—and I mean everything—to keep this data away from ISPs. That will cost millions of dollars in terms of system changes and lost performance.

I hope ISPs are not stupid. But enterprises should avoid ISPs that stupidly take advantage of the lack of net neutrality or the removed legal constraints around privacy.

We’re banking on ISPs to regulate themselves, while paying them billions of dollars in broadband fees—both direct and indirect. ISP/cloud customers need to hold the ISPs’ feet to the fire to ensure that they get good ISP service, the ISPs do not favor one cloud provider over another, and most important, the ISPs don’t become Big Brother.