VPN Subscriptions On the Rise Following Expected Net Neutrality Repeal
VPN subscriptions grew 2x on Google Play following FCC vote to repeal net neutrality.
On April 23, parts of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality went into effect. Implications of the repeal could include Internet Service Providers (ISPs), (i.e. Verizon, AT&T, Comcast), creating legal ‘fast lanes’ and ‘slow lanes’ for the websites of their choice, or blocking certain websites they don’t like or agree with, effectively giving ISPs control over what content we can view. This challenge to the integrity of the World Wide Web has created ripples from the state level to the individual, as the nation grapples with how to retain internet autonomy and privacy post-net neutrality.
While states have introduced new legislation to maintain regulatory rigor, some industry experts suggest that individuals could potentially circumvent the restrictions of ISPs by adopting tools such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). When a user connects to a VPN, their Internet traffic gets routed through an alternative tunnel, so their ISP is unable to determine which websites the person is trying to access — and therefore, can’t control the user’s speed based on the site or content one is trying to access.
Edison Trends examined anonymized and aggregated VPN subscriptions to determine whether Net Neutrality repeal efforts may have influenced the adoption of virtual private networks across the nation.
Note: A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect remote users to a company’s private, internal network. A VPN secures the private network, using encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.
Figures 1a-1b. Has VPN adoption increased following Net Neutrality repeal events?
VPN paid subscriptions on Google Play more than doubled in the two weeks (Dec 18-Jan 1) following the FCC’s December 14th vote to repeal net neutrality. The February 22nd publication of the FCC’s new rules correlated with a similar rise of new paid VPN subscriptions, which increased by over 50% from the previous week. New VPN subscriptions peaked the week of April 1st, two weeks after news broke and snowballed regarding Facebook’s data leak of millions of consumers information taken by Cambridge Analytica.
Downloads of VPN services on Amazon App Store more than doubled in the week after the FCC’s August 16th deadline for public commentary on the net neutrality repeal proposal. VPN downloads rose again the week the FCC unveiled its plan to repeal net neutrality in November, and peaked in the two weeks following the official vote on December 14th.
Figure 2a-2b. Which VPN services saw the most adoption before and after net neutrality repeal events occurred?
Analysis of the top five VPN brands among Android users (Google Play), NordVPN subscriptions grew their share the most from August 2017 (9%) to March 2018 (32%). Conversely, Avast VPN lost the most market share, decreasing from 35% in August to 20% in March. Betternet was the least popular of the top five (11%) among new paid VPN subscriptions in March on Google Play. Norton grabbed a larger share of new subscriptions among Google Play (Android) shoppers (19% of top 5 brands) than it did among App Store (Apple) shoppers (8%) in March 2018.
These five providers had the most popular VPN apps among Apple users (App Store). Within the top five, Betternet’s share of paid VPN subscriptions grew from August 2017 (15%) to March 2018 (23%). Conversely, Hotspot Shield VPN lost the most market share among the top five, decreasing from 60% in August to 52% in March (though it still retained its lead in garnering the most new paid subscriptions).
Proxy Master is hanging on last in the top five for new paid VPN subscriptions in March on the App Store (7%). Hotspot Shield garnered more new subscriptions among App Store (Apple) shoppers (52%) than it did among Google Play (Android) shoppers (16%) in March 2018.
*The data shown is based on a sample of anonymized and aggregated e-receipts from millions of consumers in the United States.
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