The cybersecurity bill making its way through the Senate right now is so broad that it could allow ISPs to classify Netflix as a “cyber threat,” which would allow them to throttle the streaming service’s delivery to customers.
It would be a backdoor way for ISPs to undermine net neutrality, and it’s one of the reasons why the Cybersecurity Information Protection Act of 2014—modeled on the CISPA bill that the internet has rallied against twice already—is so terrible for consumers (the other is the unfettered ferry of information between companies and the federal government, but that’s another story).
Given how ISPs have fought to destroy the open internet, they’d likely jump at the chance to sidestep existing net neutrality rules without the Federal Communications Commission needing to do much of anything at all. The bill, as it’s written, allows companies to employ “countermeasures” against “cybersecurity threats,” but both terms are extremely broadly defined, and video streaming could easily fall within the purview of the latter.
“A ‘threat,’ according to the bill, is anything that makes information unavailable or less available. So, high-bandwidth uses of some types of information make other types of information that go along the same pipe less available,” Greg Nojeim, a lawyer with the Center for Democracy and Technology, told me. “A company could, as a cybersecurity countermeasure, slow down Netflix in order to make other data going across its pipes more available to users.”
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