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article imageOp-Ed: Internet Slowdown Day — Protecting Internet equality

By Greta McClain     Sep 10, 2014 in Internet
More than 60 prominent websites and upwards of a million people will participate in today's Internet Slowdown Day to protest the FCC's rules change what would "slow down" the Internet.
The protest was sparked by the January 14, 2014 U.S. Federal Court ruling, Verizon v Federal Communication Commission's (FCC). In that ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel says:
"Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order."
The Open Internet Order Tatel speaks about refers to the December 2010 order in which the FCC defines open internet as:
"A level playing field where consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use, and where consumers are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others."
It further states that the order would ensure:
1. Transparency: That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network
2. No Blocking: That no legal content may be blocked
3. No Unreasonable Discrimination: That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.
Although the principles behind the order, that Internet service providers (ISP) should treat all Internet traffic the same, should not block or slow down traffic or modify services based on the traffic to and from sites, seems fair and reasonable, many major ISP's immediately began challenging the order. The Verizon challenge and subsequent ruling virtually eliminated those principles.
In light of the ruling, the FCC proposed a rules change in May of this year. The changes would essentially clear the way for ISP's to offer so called "fast lanes" to higher paying customers. For example, Verizon, Comast or another ISP could force Netflix, Meetup, Etsy or any online company to pay a premium to have their services in the "fast lane" and ensure customers receive quality, uninterrupted content. Although many may not have much sympathy to major conglomerates such at Netflix, the idea of paying for "fast lanes" could put an undo burden on smaller competitors, thus potentially eliminating the idea of a fair marketplace.
The idea of unequal treatment for content providers and customers is seen as a threat to the idea of net neutrality, the idea that no portion of Internet information should be prioritized over another.
Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, calls the Internet "the most democratic vehicle for free expression the world has ever known." He argues that the Internet is a free market that allows both small and large businesses and equal playing field and allows the average person the opportunity to create "tomorrow’s Google or next year’s Facebook."
The idea that the principles of net neutrality and an open Internet are in jeopardy spawned Internet Slowdown Day. The protest is organized by Fight for the Future, which believes the proposed rule change would create a two-tiered Internet. Fight for the Future told CNET the two-tiered system would mean "slow lanes (for most of us) and fast lanes (for wealthy corporations that are willing to pay fees in exchange for fast service)." This would "discriminate against online content and applications."
Battle for the Net has also joined in the cause, saying:
"Cable companies would have the power to discriminate against online content and applications — they could pick winners and losers, shake sites down for fees, block content for political reasons, and make it easier for Internet users to view cable content. (For instance, Comcast owns NBC, and so has incentives to make it easier to view NBC content than that of other providers.)"
Top websites such as Netflix, Meetup, Reddit, Foursquare, Vimeo and Wordpress are also taking up the cause and participating in "Slowdown Day." As a way of showing their support, they will post various graphics on their sites as a sign of solidarity and support for an open Internet.
Netflix shows its support of Internet Slowdown Day
Netflix shows its support of Internet Slowdown Day
Screen Capture
Tumblr plans on releasing a video about net neutrality, as well as urge users to use a net neutrality hashtag in social media posts and e-mail lawmakers in Congress. Tumblr also issued a statement saying:
"A multi-tiered system, catered purely to the economic interests of broadband providers with termination monopolies to end consumers, will undoubtedly harm innovation and competition in industries reliant on the Internet (a set of industries that now extends far beyond the usual 'tech' sector) and stifle free expression for millions of users of Tumblr."
Individuals are asked to show their support by changing their Twitter or other social media profile photos to a spinning loading icon. It is estimated that a million or more people will participate in the protest in one way or another.
Spinning loading logo for Internet Slowdown Day
Spinning loading logo for Internet Slowdown Day
Screen Capture
According to a Washington Post report, the FCC has received 1.1 million people comments regarding the rules change, with only approximately one percent of the comments showing support for the change.
The protest may already be seeing results before it can really begin. Engine, a Silicon Valley lobby group, told the Guardian:
“With over one million public comments already filed with the FCC, much has been written about why the FCC’s proposed rules would damage the internet, but the FCC needs to see firsthand how Internet fast lanes would devastate startups.”
Those comments have caused FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to backtrack from the proposed rules change, saying the FCC will not allow creation of Internet of "haves" and "have-nots".
Although the protest will not actually "slow down" the Internet, organizers believe it sends a strong message to not only FCC, but to IPS's such as Comcast and Verizon. With Wheeler seemingly succumbing to mounting pressure from the public, it remains to be seen what if any impact "Slowdown Day" will have on the major ISP's. With growing public outcry against the a push to eliminate the idea of an equal and neutral Internet, one can only hope the fear of customer outrage will encourage them to embrace the principle of an open Internet.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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