Net Neutrality

Opinion | Killing Net Neutrality Could Negatively Affect Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

Net neutrality is supposed to ensure that all traffic on the internet is treated fairly, equally or in the same way. If an ISP has to abide by the principle of net neutrality, then it cannot alter the speed with which you access certain websites or online content. Under net neutrality, ISPs can’t block or restrict access to websites or internet services as long as they’re posting legal content. Recently, the FCC chose to repeal net neutrality, which could turn out to be quite problematic for bitcoin and the cryptocurrency world in general.

In 2015, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) basically ruled in favor of keeping the internet “free and open”. On December 14th, 2017, FCC chairman Ajit Pai opted to reverse the decision on net neutrality. If net neutrality goes away, giant American ISPs like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T could not be legally penalized for restricting access to bitcoin and cryptocurrency services and exchanges. Crypto exchanges like Coinbase are already having a tough time keeping up with all the trading and have experienced major outages recently. If ISPs begin to slow down traffic, these outages could potentially be even worse.

Verizon already has a history of blocking access to certain internet services when it prevented its smartphone customers from being able to download and use Google Wallet to make payments back in 2011. Although Verizon later reversed its decision, this shows that ISPs have the power to manipulate or control what happens on the internet to serve their own interests. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine that they could try to manipulate the bitcoin and cryptocurrency world.

The telecommunications industry has expressed a great deal of interest in blockchain technology, It’s quite possible that bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges could enter into business partnerships that would allow them to create a monopoly over the internet. Furthermore, ISPs could begin to give preference to certain bitcoin or crypto wallets.

Professor Emin Gün Sirer, who is the co-director of Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Smart Contracts at Cornell University, has stated that since peer-to-peer applications are not usually ranked among the top websites in terms of traffic or popularity, the end-users (customers) could be charged extra to use them. Since the internet continues to grow and evolve so rapidly, it is difficult for any entity to properly monitor it. If ISPs are given the free hand, it could definitely impact the cryptocurrency market.

At the time of this writing, Bitcoin is trading at nearly $20,000. ISPs could even manipulate crypto news outlets and online resources that investors use. Live streaming pricing data for cryptocurrencies might not be as accessible. This could greatly affect or influence trading in a negative way. At this point, the best we can do is hypothesize or speculate. However, we should all do our part in staying informed and, if possible, take action to protect our financial rights and freedom.