Dec 27, 2017

How some startups are trying to work around net neutrality repeal

An AT&T Inc. cellular antenna stands in San Francisco. Photo: David Paul Morris / Getty

Some startups are trying to turn existing technologies into products that could reduce consumers' reliance on major internet service providers for broadband access, the WSJ reports.

Why it matters: Earlier this month, the FCC repealed net neutrality rules that required internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, Charter and Comcast to treat all internet access equally. Without those rules, the telecom companies may be able to speed up some traffic from companies willing to pay extra to reach consumers faster. In many areas, consumers have few choices of broadband providers.

Here's what a few startups are doing to increase competition for the big internet service providers:

  • VPN: AnchorFree provides a service called Hotspot shield to hide their location from broadband providers. "In theory, that would make it harder for telecom companies such as AT&T Inc. or Verizon Communications Inc. to slow down a site or completely block users from viewing it," per the WSJ.
  • Mesh network: Startup goTenna makes a small antenna that can connect with devices such as phones, laptops and other antennas several miles away over radio frequencies. That allows the user to pull together connectivity from many different nodes to establish a web connection. In Portugal, startup Veniam installed sensors on vehicles to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots to create a mesh network to which city residents can connect.

But, but, but: Some of these projects need the cooperation of local officials and are not proven to be viable alternatives to a fixed or wireless broadband subscription. Also, incumbent internet service providers say they don't have plans to block or prioritize web traffic, even without the FCC's rules.

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