Net Neutrality Advocates Want to Slow Down Your Internet to Protest Fast Lanes

The groups behind the SOPA blackout want to show you what the internet would feel like without net neutrality.

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Sep 3 2014, 7:40pm

Image: Battle for the Net

A coalition of groups working to preserve net neutrality wants web hosts to symbolically slow down the internet for one day to show what life might be like if internet service providers are allowed to create paid prioritization "fast lanes."

On September 10, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, and Free Press—groups that helped stage the SOPA blackout in 2012—says that web hosts will display "symbolic loading icons" to show people what it'll be like if net neutrality is destroyed. 

They look like this:

Similar to the website blackouts to protest SOPA, these loading icons will show up when a user first loads a page, and will ask them to submit a form letter to the Federal Communications Commission explaining that they oppose any plan that would create internet fast lanes.

The loading icons won't actually slow sites down, but they'll have to be clicked through to see a site's main content (for that day, at least).

David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, told me that the groups have already gotten some of the internet's heavy hitters on board, but a full list of sites that are participating won't be available until tomorrow.

"We're waiting for them to make it known themselves," Segal told me. "But we're expecting pretty robust participation from some brand-name websites."

A press release for the protest says that many "major tech companies and web platforms" will be participating.

During the SOPA blackout, Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, Reddit, Craigslist, the Internet Archive, Twitter, Tumblr, and many other huge websites participated in the protest. Many of those same companies have pledged their support to net neutrality, but we won't know for sure if any of them will be involved until tomorrow.

Still, it appears this protest has all the makings of that SOPA event, which was extremely successful: Beyond the three groups organizing it, The American Civil Liberties Union, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Greenpeace, MoveOn, and dozens of other civil liberties groups have backed the idea.

Earlier this year, one web host, Neocities, specifically slowed down incoming traffic from the FCC, forcing visitors from the commission to experience dialup speeds on his website. That, obviously, was a minor move, but it garnered attention from the national media. Segal told me that Neocities' move was "a cool concept," but overall, the impact was limited.

"It required the FCC staff or commissioners to care about visiting that particular person's website," he said. "This has been an idea floating around for several months now, we've just been focusing on building out a tool to get it to work. We're engaging in mass protest to symbolize what it's like, and we want to remind people that this is what they're going to be facing if [net neutrality] goes away."