Don't worry, the Internet has not been slower despite loading icons appearing Wednesday on sites such as reddit and Netflix. Many websites supporting net neutrality, the belief that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, added the icons as part of the Internet Slowdown protest, organized by Fight for the Future.
The loading graphic on some sites, including reddit and Netflix, links to www.battleforthenet.com, which provides information on why net neutrality is important after the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in January against federal rules requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. The decision could pave the way for the creation of fast lanes or preferred access to Internet service, thus creating barriers for access and creativity, according to net neutrality proponents.
Other sites have gotten more creative with their Internet Slowdown protests. The net neutrality post on Wordpress' blog features a long loading icon that leads users to the Battle for the Net site. Vimeo released a garbled video and an option to let users provide their phone number and postal codes and get in contact with their state Senator.
"When you think about the free and open web, net neutrality is one of the core, key tenants of it," said Dave Steer, Mozilla's Director of Advocacy. "And, if you think more broadly, in the history of the world, there really have only been a few communications platforms that have had such a profound effect on overall society; the printing press, the telephone, the radio and the web. I think what’s going on right is people see the situation for what it is." Mozilla is not directly participating in Wednesday's Internet Slowdown protest, but they are supporting the campaign by directing users to sign a petition.
Net Neutrality And Creativity
Open platforms such as Mozilla and Wordpress thrive on the equal opportunity for users to create, develop and share. "Our overall mission is to democratize publishing," said Paul Sieminkski, general counsel at Automattic. "Anyone of any size, from independent, individual bloggers, like myself, to a very large media company, like the New York Post or something, both of which have sites on Wordpress.com, can reach their audience completely on the merits of what they are publishing, not in regard to their size or the size of their wallet."
Fast lanes would hinder innovation and lead to an unlevel playing field, said Sieminkski. "One of the myths of all of this is, right now, we’re getting something for free. If Internet or broadband companies were to charge more that would be to cover the cost of an expensive service that they are providing. But I think the truth of the matter is that everyone is already paying to be online, this would just be an additional charge on top of that to the companies for the exact same level of service we are getting right now," said Sieminkski.
What's Next After The Internet Slowdown Protest
The Federal Communications Commission, which is weighing rules that would allow broadband providers to charge certain internet firms for guaranteed levels of service, has extended the deadline for comments on the proposal until Monday. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is in support of net neutrality and has scheduled a Sept. 17 hearing to discuss the FCC's proposal.
“We need a real and meaningful action by the FCC to regulate these telecoms in the public interest," said Evan Greer, Fight for the Future campaign manager. "Because the Internet is something that people rely on, like electricity and water, and it should be treated as something that is a basic need that should be protected for people."