VPN provider FindVPN.com has seen a significant surge in searches for safe Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for torrenting since last week. This is the effect of multiple causes. The first one is Austria’s recent ruling that ISPs (short for Internet Service Providers) are forced to block The Pirate Bay and 1337x, the top two torrenting websites currently available for public use.
The Supreme Court in the state of Austria decided upon this after complaints lodged by copyright litigators on behalf of multiple artists, among which The Beatles, One Direction, Queen, Michael Jackson, and Justin Bieber. This decision has led to public discomfort and annoyance, Austrian users being put off by 502 error codes upon attempts to access the aforementioned sites. Aside from these two large torrent providers, a plethora of other such websites have now become inaccessible for Austrian users. As a consequence, clients attempting to browse a large number of torrent-download websites must now appeal to a VPN.
Aside from Austria, the largest number of Internet users that want to employ a VPN comes from the United States. This comes as a reaction to a recent announcement by the FCC that it will most likely manage to repeal net neutrality laws until the holiday season. This action will allow ISPs to take action against torrent providers, decreasing their download speeds and ease of access significantly. Users that desire to subvert this inconvenience are likely to rely on VPN providers due to the inherent encryption of the service, leading to the impossibility for ISPs to spot the intended website that a user wants to go on.
It was ten years ago, in 2007, when Comcast – among the largest Stateside ISPs – began coming down on BitTorrent providers in order to secure easier access to its own networks. This is the case that determined U.S. authorities to scrutinize net neutrality, building the context for a public national debate that eventually determined the FCC to pass the Open Internet Order in 2010.
This act ensures a legal framework protecting websites and users that want to neutrally view content on websites. The potential repeal of net neutrality has bred fear among advocates for the laws that ISPs will revert to their old techniques and throttle the digital environment as before. A significant concern that has been put forth is that ISPs will now have legal permission to charge users for access to particular websites and even to restrict access completely.
Moreover, websites themselves could be forced to pay fees to ISPs in order to provide content at high speeds. This would be a troubling form of Internet censorship, granting ISPs full dominion on information and services, filtering them out to the users as they see fit. Many are concerned that such companies as Verizon or Comcast will push their agenda in the digital environment such that the Internet will no longer be free to all.
The current director of the FCC, Ajit Pai, pays no mind to such arguments and considers that the laws now in effect are excessively restrictive. He considers that their risks significantly trump their benefits by restricting opportunities for investment and innovation and by not allowing competition to play out in the market. Nonetheless, he has not been capable to provide any counterarguments for the legitimate concerns put forth by the advocates for net neutrality.
They claim that the market is already under monopoly from a very small number of massive conglomerates, their current existence as such making it impossible for smaller providers to edge their way in the market. Therefore, by entitling ISPs to even more real control of the market, it seems highly unlikely that this will manage to create a fertile, competitive environment. Pai’s position is further compromised his former position as an attorney for Verizon, leading many to believe that his insights are nothing but an instance of corporate greed.
The final draft of the FCC’s repeal attempt was released this week. Despite the general fear that this act will tear apart the free Internet, we must keep an objective view and wait for it to run its course. We could speculate as to what this could mean – extra fees imposed upon users for access to Netflix and Youtube; such fees imposed on the services themselves; charges on such services being redirected into Internet cost savings for users and the (unlikely, granted) positive impact that this could have on Donald Trump’s optics.
Nonetheless, all this would be no more than scenario work. We can only be certain of one thing: the surge in U.S. users that want to gain access to a VPN is very telling as to their expectations regarding this matter – that torrent providers will be the first to be targeted in the aftermath of this act.