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Internet Slowdown Day FAQ: How Netflix, Wordpress, and other web giants are fighting for Net Neutrality

Ian Paul | Sept. 11, 2014
If you visit sites like BoingBoing, Digg, Upworthy, and Vimeo this morning, you'll probably see some strange behavior such as a strategically placed spinning icon meant to mimic a slow-loading site. The little JavaScript widgets are all part of Wednesday's Internet Slowdown Day--a digital day of action meant to draw attention to the perils of an Internet without net neutrality.

If you visit sites like BoingBoing, Digg, Upworthy, and Vimeo this morning, you'll probably see some strange behavior such as a strategically placed spinning icon meant to mimic a slow-loading site. The little JavaScript widgets are all part of Wednesday's Internet Slowdown Day — a digital day of action meant to draw attention to the perils of an Internet without net neutrality.

Here's what you need to know about the protest.

What's this all about then?

Internet Slowdown day is designed to inspire more people to offer public comment against the Federal Communication Commission's proposed guidelines for Internet Service Providers. The public comment period for the FCC's proposed rules ends on September 15.

The FCC's proposed rules first came to light in late April. The rules were roundly criticized because they allowed for the possibility of paid prioritization on Internet traffic. In other words, U.S. ISPs would be able to charge content companies for faster traffic delivery to the ISP's customers, creating fast and slow lanes for large and small websites respectively.

Why do I care if Amazon or Reddit has to pay my ISP?

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out in a recent blog post, "you can't have a fast lane without also having a slower lane." Inevitably, if the ISPs do start charging for faster access there will be smaller companies and websites that can't or won't pay the ISPs. Thus their traffic may be delivered to your PC or tablet at home at a noticeably slower rate, putting larger companies or companies with deeper pockets at an inherent advantage over others on the web.

Aren't some companies were already paying ISPs?

Yes, but they are not technically paying for faster access — although arguably the end result is the same. Right now, companies can end up paying ISPs for direct access to an ISP's network, rather than having to route traffic through other Internet backbone providers, resulting in suddenly faster connection speeds for you. The recent inter-connection agreements between Netflix and allthe major U.S. ISPs are probably the most well known of these deals.

Doesn't the FCC say they won't allow for fast and slow lanes?

The FCC hopes to balance paid prioritization by requiring minimum service levels for basic high-speed Internet service. One obvious problem is the FCC's view of what basic speeds are acceptable could fail to match up with what Internet users expect from their ISPs, and could fail to keep pace with increasing broadband speeds over time.

Which websites are participating on Wednesday?

The list of participating websites and civic action groups participating on Wednesday is large, and very similar to the successful SOPA/PIPA protests from 2012.

 

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