Worried About the Net Neutrality Repeal? Don’t Freak Out Just Yet
OK, it may already be too late and you’re already freaked out. You don’t want your ISP to charge you extra to enable use of your Bitcoin on top of the already crazy-high transaction fees. You still want to visit cool sites and play awesome MMORPGs without them being throttled or you hitting an arbitrary data cap. What can be done about the end of Net Neutrality?
As promoters of mobile apps like to say- “There’s an app for that.” At least, there will be in the near future if blockchain developers have their way. These developers are currently working on things like Tradenets. Someone who needs a ride can simply post a request and then “smart” self-driving cars will place bids for providing the service. Some developers are also working on an “alternative” Internet that relies on meshnets and the Ethereum network, though the obvious major hurdle at the moment is scaling (see virtual cats). These are solutions in the works by private citizens who were not surprised by the Net Neutrality repeal because they’ve learned that the government does not always have the best interests of ordinary, average people in mind (gasp).
May Not Happen Soon
It’s easy to forget that developers and corporations are just now beginning to experiment with the possibilities of blockchain. Developers like Mike Hearn don’t necessarily think that apps like Tradenets and mesh network-powered Internet service will be ready for the wider marketplace anytime soon. As Hearn put it: “We’ll easily have [the Tradenet] nailed, like, 50 years from now. ”
Enabling a future economy in which people don’t have to rely on middlemen could also require a cultural shift as much as it relies on technological advancements. People are still used to using their credit cards or Paypal whenever they want to make an online purchase. They’re not so quick to jump on a new technology that is not easy to regulate because it’s decentralized and can so easily dive into the Deep Web at the first sign of the regulators.
The cultural problem will have to be addressed for the sake of convincing consumers that they can be hurt when a major corporation gets hacked by a malicious actor who steals their credit card numbers and Paypal shuts down their account for no reason. Maybe they already know this but don’t see what they can do about it if they want to function normally in modern society. Although there are regulations regarding what credit card information can be stored, a natural question to ask is, “Why do corporations have to store your private financial data on their servers at all?” Even in the Bitcoin world, exchanges are not immune to going bankrupt after somebody, probably North Korea, hacked their servers and stole millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin.
As any cryptocurrency purist will tell you, trusting any overly centralized third party or authority is not a good thing if you want to hodl your cryptocurrencies. A fully decentralized Internet in which people’s privacy and financial data are fully protected will have to happen gradually, both to iron out the inevitable technical kinks and to get people used to the idea that they don’t need to rely on ISPs as gatekeepers for the Internet.
Will It Fly or Fall With Style?
Build it and they will come? Maybe. Most people will not care what the back end does as long as they can safely surf the Internet without their favorite sites getting throttled, and preferably without their devices getting hijacked to mine Monero. They’ll probably like it better if they know that their web surfing will be relatively private, if only for the sake that it’s nobody’s business if a dude wants to stream a few episodes of My Little Pony.
If anything, blockchain will have to deal with the image problem that comes with being associated with Bitcoin. The same people who never wonder whether the dollar bill they’re holding was once used to tip a woman at a gentleman’s club will inevitably wonder whether a friend’s Bitcoin was once used in a money laundering scheme. It would also be helpful to figure out how to scale the relevant blockchain apps to the point where they can’t be bogged down by a fad like Crypto Kitties.
It is cool that cryptocurrency insiders are looking for grassroots alternatives to Net Neutrality regulations so that they can ensure a fair and open Internet regardless of what large ISPs might do. They aren’t sitting around complaining when the government won’t do what they want. They’re interested in solving the problem so that people actually have choices other than the largest ISP in their area and they’re using the blockchain to do it.