FCC head Ajit Pai has managed to deal a major blow to free and neutral Internet usage by repealing the so-called Net Neutrality laws. Effectively, this allows broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.
Effectively, the likes of AT&T and Comcast now have the ability to block certain websites to their customers or even charge more for usage of them. Now, the broadband providers can influence what sites of the Internet are used.
For Bitcoin, this could have huge implications as the digital currency operates totally online and within the sights of these companies. Bitcoin and its related sectors have also been eyed suspiciously by traditional monopolies, and their stance in the eyes of these broadband providers is yet to be known.
Choosing a preferred exchange
For the everyday Bitcoin user, in the US for this instance, there is a pretty familiar pattern.
The man on the street logs on to Coinbase buys his Ethereum, Bitcoin or Litecoin and operates from there. The exchange is the on-ramp and the exchange is also an easy target without Net Neutrality laws.
Marvin Ammori, lawyer for the advocacy group Fight for the Future told Motherboard:
“The average person goes to Coinbase to buy Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin—the average on-ramp is an exchange, and those are easy to block. If Comcast is the monopoly provider in an area, the provider could decide there’s a preferred Bitcoin exchange.”
While this is still hypothetical, it essentially means a new weapon has been minted in the fight against Bitcoin. For instance, these ISPs, under the pressure of governments or other major institutions, could set in motion ways to stop access to cryptocurrency exchanges.
The likes of Coinbase and other major exchanges have worked hard to grow their reputation and assure people of a safe cryptocurrency space. But if they are shut down or hindered to a point where they are unusable, many crypto-enthusiasts will be left stranded.
However, if these ISPs do decide to let Bitcoin live on, there is every chance they will use their new-found power to squeeze the most out of them. Prefered Exchanges will be given preference - and preferred will no doubt mean centralized.
According to Cornell University computer science professor Emin Gün Sirer, even if popular sites like Coinbase can pony up and pay a service provider for faster traffic in the name of good business, individual uses of Cryptocurrencies could still suffer.
“Peer-to-peer applications may be greatly affected because they’re not in the top 100 most popular destinations on the web. Providers can make the case that supporting those non-top-100 services costs more, and users have to bear that cost.”
“My worry is it will affect the ability to run your own node.”
A ‘node’ is one of many computers that communicate with each other to run the decentralized network of a cryptocurrency. Throttling nodes would require a service provider to manage traffic at the IP level, and not simply look for a particular protocol.
Where to go?
This could put an end to many’s foray into the world of cryptocurrency, shutting down the disruptive force on many different established sectors. However, those who do stay would then be forced back down the dark path of Bitcoin’s past - onto the darknet and other illegal marketplaces.