‘Internet Slowdown’ Campaign Raises Net Neutrality Awareness

You may have noticed some of your favorite websites are displaying spiraling “loading” symbols, also referred to as the “spinning wheel of death.”

These are part of an online protest to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support stronger net neutrality protections. In January, the a U.S. court struck down the FCC’s previous rules for net neutrality.

The loading symbols link to information on how to contact Congress, the White House and the FCC.

According to Nathan White of Demand Progress, one of the groups involved in organizing the protest, the one-day campaign was generating over 1,000 calls per hour to Congress,the White House and the FCC.

Net neutrality means that ISPs are to provide equal access to all types of Internet content.

The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable” in the U.S.

“The Internet is united against the FCC’s Net Neutrality-killing proposal,” said Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the Free Press Action Fund, one of groups organizing the protest, in a statement.

“Today we’ll see the Internet slow down as millions of people rise up against this threat to our rights to connect and communicate,” he continued. “There aren’t many issues that could bring together such a diverse array of groups, big platforms and small businesses, senators and everyday citizens, all of them urging the leaders at the FCC to restore real Net Neutrality.”

Some of the biggest participants in the protest include Reddit, Netflix, Tumblr, Upworthy and many more. Anyone with a website or blog can participate using coding provided by the organizers of the protest.

Online behemoth Google is not sporting the loading symbols on its sites, but the company sent a pro-net neutrality email to its activism list of about two million people.

The U.S. already has poor broadband service, and last year the The World Economic Forum ranked the United States 35th out of 148 countries in Internet bandwidth.

“We already have problems, and we don’t need to make it worse,” said White. ”It’s bad for users and for economic innovation.”

White said that if someone were to create the next Facebook, they might be stifled in garnering a big audience because the site might not load quickly. A startup, he said, would not have the money to pay an Internet service providers extra for more bandwidth.

Michael K. Powell, former FCC chairman and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a cable industry lobbying group, wrote a column in the USA Today newspaper in January arguing the FCC didn’t need to implement new regulations.

“We have an ‘open Internet. Broadband providers continue to support the principles that allow consumers to access lawful websites when, where and how they choose.”, he wrote, adding that “reclassifying the Internet and applying telephone-era rules would choke off growth and investment.”

The outcome of the net neutrality debate in the U.S. could have global implications.

“It’s something that matters all over the world,” said White. “The end of net neutrality would be incredibly profitable for existing telecommunications companies.”

Many experts believe the biggest effect of the lack of net neutrality in the U.S. to non-Americans would be the example it sets.

White as confident the campaign will have the desired results.

“If [the FCC] listens to the will of the people, as they’re supposed to, they will create meaningful rules that protect net neutrality,” he said.

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