Image: Wikimedia Commons
It’s doubtful that many employees of the Federal Communications Commission spend their days browsing Geocities-era websites, but if they do, they’re going to have to do it the same way they did in the mid 1990s—very slowly.
In a stand against the agency’s proposed “internet fast lane,” web host Neocities has started throttling all web traffic from the FCC’s offices down to 28.8 kb/s—dial-up modem speeds—as a preview of what might happen if the group allows internet service providers to charge extra for increased web speeds.
Neocities creator Kyle Drake says that the FCC, if it wants, can remove the throttle by paying $1,000 a year—a nod to the tiered plans (similar to paying for certain cable channels) that activists have warned will become the norm if net neutrality is struck down by the agency. Admittedly, it's a stunt, but it's one that could quickly get the attention of larger websites and hosts who could potentially do the same thing.
"I’m sure someone from the FCC has gone to the site since they’ve done this, realized it’s going really slowly and thought 'holy shit, the entire internet could do this to us, and then we could have internet that doesn’t work,'" Drake told me. "Doing this with Neocities doesn't really do anything, but imagine if Google did it—they wouldn't be able to do anything without them."
Drake has posted the (surprisingly basic) code he’s used to throttle their bandwidth—basically, the servers look for six distinct IP address ranges known to be used by computers connected at the FCC’s offices and automatically limits internet speeds for users coming from those connections. Already, at least three other web designers have said that they’ll begin throttling the FCC using Drake’s code.
The web host scraped FCC IP addresses using an email he got from someone at the agency and then expanded it to "every IP address the FCC has ever owned" after someone on Hacker News gave him the publicly-available addresses. Drake says he regularly has to throttle IP addresses of bots who spam Neocities sites, so writing the code was easy. Whether it's legal—under current net neutrality rules—is another matter.
"I have no idea if what I’m doing right now is breaking the law, and frankly I don’t care. I would love it if they try to arrest me for doing this," he said. "It would be the greatest day of my life. I would happily go to jail to defend this protest, against policies that would make this the norm."
The FCC will vote on a proposal to scrap net neutrality on May 15, which has spurred a wide range of protests. A host of internet companies came out against the proposal yesterday, several people are camping outside of the FCC’s Washington DC offices, and more than a million people have signed internet petitions asking the commission to preserve the free and open net.
Until then, Drake says protesters should do everything they can to make sure the proposal doesn't go through.
"At this point, I’m like, 'fuck the FCC, block their internet, pee on their doorstep, fuck them," he said. "You can't do this to the internet."