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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Internet Slowdown Day: Leading web companies fight for ‘net neutrality’

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The world's major online companies, along with smaller websites, have united in a symbolic ‘Internet Slowdown’ protest against proposed US regulations that would introduce segregation in internet surfing speeds and kill “net neutrality.”

The central theme of the protest on September 10 is to rally around a revolving icon – symbolizing slowly loading online content – as a way of illustrating how the loss of net neutrality would harm websites and other online services if a new US-proposed regulation goes into action.
Internet giants such as Netflix who rely on a fast internet stream to offer their users HD access to their movie library are at the front lines of the movement, which united over the social media under the #NetNeutrality hashtag.

Leading Internet companies including Reddit, Foursquare, Mozilla, Vimeo, and Wordpress announced their support for the protest by displaying the loading symbol while urging their users to submit comments to the Federal Communications Commission, Congress and the White House. 

“Not to worry, the icon you are seeing today will not actually slow down your internet service. But it is there to warn Web visitors of what world's cyberspace could be like if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were allowed to charge more for faster access,” Fight for the Future, the group behind the advocacy event, said in their call to action. 

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aims to introduce changes in existing rules allowing cable giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to operate a two-tiered internet, with “slow lanes” for most internet companies, and “fast lanes” for those willing to pay extra. 

“The FCC would like to roll back Title II protections for the internet, which means that they see a world which the internet is no longer a wonderful playing field it is where everyone has a voice,” Liz McIntyre, a consumer privacy expert and eHOw tech columnist, told RT. “By rolling this back, they would put the power over the internet into the hands of a very small group of very, very powerful people, namely the telecommunication companies.” 

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  “The vision is that once Title II protections are no longer there then it will be up to the organizations in charge to decide exactly who gets what service and how fast that service will be,” McIntyre added. 

With the open comment period due to end on September 15, the FCC is expected to issue a final rule as soon as the end of the year. The new guidelines aim to replace the FCC's 2010 open internet order, which was struck down by a federal appeals court in January this year. The current debate focuses on the issue of “net neutrality” and the way two-tier internet traffic would impact competition, consumers, free speech and civic engagement. 

To remind the FCC that internet is a “common carrier” – with its content to be delivered to users at equal speeds – more action is planned for this month. The campaign will include rallies in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, on September 15-18.

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