Net Neutrality Advocates Plan Sept. 10 'Internet Slowdown'
Reddit, Mozilla, Kickstarter, Wordpress and Foursquare are among the companies planning to participate in a symbolic "Internet slowdown" in support of net neutrality on September 10. The day-long, online demonstration -- during which participating Web sites will display a message with an endlessly spinning “site loading” icon -- is scheduled to come five days ahead of a public comment deadline on the issue by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC is currently reviewing proposed rules for the “open Internet,” which the agency defines as “the Internet as we know it, a level playing field where consumers can make their own choices about what and services to use.” One rule it is considering would allow Internet service providers to sell “fast-lane” services to companies that want to ensure uninterrupted delivery of streaming and other content.
Opponents of that proposal say the rule would create a “two-tiered Internet” with high-speed priority service for those willing and able to pay for it, and slower service for the rest. They are urging the FCC to consider an alternative rule that would treat Internet content delivery as a utility service in which all users would have the right to equal access speeds.
‘Bigger Threat’ than SOPA
We reached out to Evan Greer, campaign manager at the advocacy group Fight for the Future, one of several organizations behind the planned Internet slowdown to learn more about the demonstration’s goals.
Greer said the proposed change to net neutrality is “a bigger threat and a longer fight” than the one online activists faced in 2012, when sites like Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit and others participated in a 24-hour protest of the proposed U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Sites that took part in that demonstration blacked out parts of Web pages, warning that SOPA could interfere with free access to online content. As a result, the legislation lost support from many members of Congress and ended up going nowhere.
“In a lot of ways, we have been able to head off a lot of threats” since the SOPA demonstration, Greer said. He added that the new action is aimed at showing support for the alternative FCC rule that would treat Internet service more like a utility. “Reclassification is the only true path to meaningful net neutrality,” Greer said.
FCC: More Than 1.1 Million Comments
Since announcing it was considering new rules for the open Internet in May of this year, the FCC has fielded numerous questions and comments about the issue. According to the agency’s Web site, the issue ranks third in most comments via the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (the proposed mergers of Comcast-Time Warner and AT&T-DirecTV rank first and second, respectively).
Those comments, combined with messages sent to the e-mail address openInternet@fcc.gov, totaled more than 1.1 million as of August 1, according to the FCC.
The issue has attracted “unprecedented levels of public interest,” noted the Sunlight Foundation, adding that net neutrality is likely to get “not one but two lengthy treatments on HBO.” The debate was also recently covered in a 13-minute segment on "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" on HBO. The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for open government globally and uses technology to make government more accountable to everyone.
Of the more than 800,000 comments it analyzed, the Sunlight Foundation found “less than 1 percent” were opposed to net neutrality. However, it wasn’t able to analyze the full 1.1 million comments released by the FCC as some were “discarded as unparseable or too long (both "Les Misérables" and "War and Peace" were submitted as comments).”