Image: Free Press/Flickr

Major Internet Companies Like Reddit and Mozilla Are Readying a Net Neutrality Protest

Annoyed at the plans to dismantle net neutrality regulations? You’re not alone.

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Jun 6 2017, 6:46pm

Image: Free Press/Flickr

Mark your calendars for July 12.

That's when a coalition of some of the largest and most influential internet companies on the planet—including Amazon, Reddit, Mozilla, and GitHub—will participate in what's been dubbed an "Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality." The online protest, which was announced Tuesday, aims to convince the kind of people who don't spend all day ruminating inside Twitter threads debating the merits of a free and open internet that they do, in fact, have the ability to shape the future policy of the greatest engine of economic growth people have yet devised.

"The Internet has given more people a voice than ever before, and we're not going to let the FCC take that power away from us," Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, one of the advocacy groups that organized the July 12 online protest, said in a statement. "Massive online mobilization got us the strong net neutrality protections that we have now, and we intend to fight tooth and nail to defend them."

What will this online protest entail? According to Fight for the Future, sites like NextDoor, Shapeways, and Patreon will focus on "grassroots mobilization," providing their users with tools so they can easily contact Congress and the FCC to express their support for net neutrality, the principle that all data online be treated equally. More to the point, that means broadband giants like Comcast and Verizon wouldn't be able to prioritize their own in-house services over other services: AT&T wouldn't be able to ensure that DirecTV Now, its streaming video service, loads faster than Netflix, nor would a mom and pop provider be allowed to degrade performance to PornHub simply because the site doesn't align with their moral compass. Serious stuff.

"Net neutrality is essential for creative freedom," Colin Sullivan, counsel at Patreon, a crowdfunding site that helps creators fund long-term projects like podcasts, told Motherboard. "There are over 50,000 creators on Patreon that would suffer if their choice of content distribution channels were limited by anticompetitive pressures. Patreon helps creators get paid, and net neutrality is an important part of that mission."

Former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, who once famously claimed to want to take a "weed whacker" to net neutrality regulations, has claimed that the current regulations are an impediment to continued internet growth and investment, hence his stop-at-nothing crusade to strike them from the books. The FCC itself declined to comment on a Motherboard request for comment about the protest.

The "Day of Action" evokes memories of a similar online protest that took place in early 2012, when a coalition of online companies drew attention to the Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposed US copyright law that activists claimed would have forced companies like Reddit and Wikipedia to censor their users.