Websites ‘slow down’ to protest FCC net neutrality plan

Netflix pop-up for the Internet protest
Netflix pop-up for the Internet protest

What do Netflix, arts and crafts site Etsy, inspirational news site Upworthy and adult content hubs all have in common? Today, they’re uniting against “Team Cable.”

Calling themselves “Team Internet,” activist groups and popular websites including Netflix, Mozilla, reddit and KickStarter launched an action they’re calling Internet Slowdown Day on Wednesday to protest the controversial proposed changes to net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission.

“If they win, the Internet dies,” says the coalition’s website, BattleForTheNet.

The banners on participating websites feature an endlessly spinning “still loading” symbol, meant to warn visitors about the so-called “pay for play” Internet the new rules could create. This new web would be divided between those able to pay for a speedy pipe to consumers and those who can’t, protestors say.

While the participating websites didn’t actually slow down their service during Wednesday’s protest, they say the high visibility of their messages and social media campaigns might add another flood of feedback to the already record-breaking 1.3 million comments that crashed the FCC website in July.

Netflix put up a banner on its homepage telling visitors, “If there were Internet slow lanes, you’d still be waiting,” and urging them to take action. Many net advocacy groups such as the Computer & Communications Industry Association called attention to the protest through pop-up messages.

The proposed new rules would allow companies to pay Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T a fee to move their content through a fast lane. The deep pockets of companies such as Google, Amazon and Skype would be able to guarantee smooth streaming for their users, putting young and innovative companies that can’t compete at a disadvantage, net activists say.

Opponents to the rules have been raising the alarm for months, protesting that the regulation would ruin net neutrality, a concept that all online content should be treated equally without interference.

Activist groups also are planning rallies in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities on September 15, the official deadline for public comments on the issue.

The 24-hour online protest will end at midnight on Thursday.