If you’re surfing the web on Wednesday and notice a lot of identical spinning icons on multiple websites, it’s no coincidence. A protest to call attention to net neutrality is set for that day, so you’ll probably be seeing that icon frequently. However, the protest is symbolic in nature, which means that you shouldn’t notice anything different—other than the addition of that icon.
Net neutrality is a movement to prevent companies from being able to dictate which types or sources of internet traffic are allowed to move faster than others, essentially creating fast lanes and slow lanes online.
Tech companies unite for net neutrality
Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), WordPress.com operator Automattic, Mozilla, Kickstarter, reddit, Meetup, Vimeo, Foursquare, Etsy, Namecheap and a long list of other companies are taking part in Wednesday’s protest. A long list of nonprofit organizations is joining the fight as well, including the Free Press Action Fund, Demand Progress, Greenpeace USA, the Writers Guild of America and others.
“The cause of Net Neutrality is important to us as a business, it’s important to our visitors, and it’s important for our democracy,” said reddit General Manager Erik Martin in a statement. “So we are proud to take part in the ‘Internet Slowdown’ and encourage others to join with us.”
Netflix has repeatedly stood on the side of net neutrality in protests like this week’s online demonstration. CEO Reed Hastings has even criticized internet service providers and demanded stronger net neutrality. However, the company has also played the other side, striking a deal with Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable Inc (NYSE:TWC) to ensure that its video streaming services work smoothly by paying extra to them in exchange for a higher quality pipeline to its customers.
Identifying participating websites
All websites that are participating in the protest will post a spinning icon that represents a slowdown of the internet. That icon doesn’t actually slow down the sites, however. Instead, it will link to Battleforthenet.com, where there’s a list of actions consumers can take to voice their concerns about net neutrality.
“The free and open Internet has been central to the economy and to global free expression,” Automattic / WordPress General Counsel Paul Sieminski said in a statement. “Everyone has to step up now and do everything they can to protect it. We’re proud to do our part and to participate in the day of action alongside so many industry leaders and citizens.”
The government and net neutrality
Four years ago, The FCC put net neutrality rules in place to keep internet service providers from discriminating against any kind of internet traffic. However, this year a federal court struck down that rule, so the FCC is working to rewrite the rules in a form that’s more palatable to the courts, according to the National Journal.
The companies and organizations that are taking part in the protest say there are a number of ways consumers can stand up for net neutrality. They urge consumers to tell the FCC and their Congressmen that they support net neutrality. They currently oppose a proposal from the FCC that would enable internet service providers to “discriminate and stifle innovation by favoring content from well-funded companies while slowing access to other websites.”
“The media has widely reported that more than 99% of the comments the FCC has received support net neutrality,” said Evan Greer of Fight for the Future, one of the organizations that’s sponsoring Wednesday’s protest. “The public’s opinion could not be more clear [sic] — we don’t want discrimination on the Internet, period. If the FCC chooses to move ahead with its current proposal in the face of this overwhelming outcry, it will be more clear [sic] than ever that this government agency has lost all legitimacy, and works for only the interest of the 1% CEOs of cable companies, and not the public good.”