Net Neutrality or Why I have picked up Tor

The recent Net Neutrality debate has me scared.

The very notion that the internet (which has always been considered as a free medium) needs to be regulated and controlled by a select few gives me the creeps.

India has been always pro for regulation, and this has resulted in fewer scams, but take the Telecom bandwidth licensing issues for e.g. The whole reason why telecom companies are crying out murder against OTT (read the internet) services is this.

Toll booth analogy

Telcos had to pay money … for licensing a public good and building communication networks for the country’s consumption. This is akin to putting up a toll booth on a national highway so that the highway can be maintained for the citizens of the country.

Do these toll booths scan the contents of the vehicle before charging tolls, or do they look at your destination before charging tolls? No, they charge you for the proportionate wear and tear that your vehicle has done on the road. Heavier vehicles, more toll, lighter vehicles, less toll.

Screening traffic

Until now, the telcos were on similar plans. High bandwidth plans were priced higher, lesser bandwidth plans were priced lesser. Unfortunately, now the telcos are screening their traffic for variable pricing … whatsapp packet – charge more, flipkart packet – charge less.

This screening creeps me out. Why are telcos (and TRAI) interested in my internet behavior? Where did my freedom to surf go? Earlier this year TRAI had done some fairly incompetent blocking of the github.com domain. A simple switch to Google’s DNS solved the matter.

Some privacy please?

The very notion that someone is sifting through my web behavior (to charge me or any website that I visit a higher rate for access to almost a public good) is ridiculous.

You want to inspect my traffic, well go ahead and see how you can handle encrypted packets!

This is where Tor steps in.

Tor Project

The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor’s users employ this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy. Along the same line, Tor is an effective censorship circumvention tool, allowing its users to reach otherwise blocked destinations or content. Tor can also be used as a building block for software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features.

The Tor Project is a simple solution to all this. What this involves is using a browser which talks to a randomly chosen IP across the world. Today it’s Finland, tomorrow, it’s Brazil. All my webtraffic is tunnelled through that remote IP.

When I visit websites, I am not a 35 yo male in India. I am just a random visitor across the world. Since all of my web traffic is sent through an encrypted tunnel to that remote IP, what the telco will now see is encrypted packets!

As a libertarian, Tor became the most elegant solution to the Net Neutrality debate. You can grab Tor Browser here.