On September 10, some of the world’s largest tech firms – including KickStarter, FourSquare, Mozilla, Vimeo and Reddit, among others – are having a “go slow” day to protest the concept that some companies may be able to pay for “fast lanes” on the Internet in the future. For the protest, these tech firms are installing a widget on their sites to show what they believe the results would be if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) overturns existing rules that keep the net neutral for all.
— Etsy (@Etsy) September 5, 2014
— Mozilla (@mozilla) September 8, 2014
— Kickstarter (@kickstarter) September 9, 2014
“Net neutrality” is the concept that all websites should have the same priority when transmitting data to a user. That means whether you’re watching a movie on Netflix, loading HTML text from a local newspaper or sharing a file on BitTorrent, everything runs at the same speed; no one has a fast lane.
The FCC is currently looking at new rules that could overturn net neutrality and allow cable and Internet service providers – Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, etc. – to charge extra for access to fast lanes. Critics say fast lanes would shatter net neutrality and could destroy the Internet as we know it.
The potential effects of the FCC’s proposed rules are up for debate:
- Some say consumers could end up being charged for access to specific websites if those websites must pay for fast lanes. Netflix is a huge contender here, since this single website often makes up one-third of all Internet data transfer.
- Others point out that new startups wouldn’t be able to compete. Being unable to pay Internet providers the fast-lane rate, they would be stuck with low data transfer speeds and never get off the ground.
Either way, it’s unfair. Internet providers charging for fast lanes is like electric companies charging air conditioner manufacturers for the burdensome load A/Cs put on the grid. It’s simply ridiculous.
That’s why Etsy, KickStarter and others are standing up on September 10. “Net neutrality is tough to explain to people, so we wanted to organize an action that actually shows the world what’s at stake,” said Evan Greer, co-founder of Fight for the Future, a group helping organize the protest day. “I think the three most hated words on the Internet right now are ‘Please wait, loading … ’ Unless Internet users unite in defense of net neutrality, we could be seeing those dreaded ‘loading’ wheels a lot more often on some of our favorite websites, while monopolistic companies get to decide which content gets seen by the most people.”
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) September 1, 2014
The “go slow” protest isn’t just to show people what an Internet without net neutrality would look like; it’s also designed to encourage consumers to unite and drive record numbers of emails and calls to lawmakers, showing where they stand in the net neutrality case. Here’s how to get involved to help win the battle for the Internet.