On Internet Slowdown Day, Are Websites Conceding That Net Neutrality is Dead?

Fight for the future
Screenshot of Netflix website courtesy of Fight for the Future

The “loading” wheel.

It’s the modern symbol of frustration but an image 76 major websites and more than 10,000 sites overall are voluntarily embracing and proudly displaying for today’s Internet Slowdown Day—an online protest for stronger net neutrality protections. (Don’t worry. They aren’t actually slowing down their sites).

Websites have incorporated the spinning icon in different ways. Kickstarter has “Stop Internet Slow Lanes” splashed across its home screen in bold letters demanding readers’ attention. But the vast majority, like Netflix, have an unassuming box—easily missed among the many clickable items on front pages. Does the small nod most participating websites gave to today’s action mean they have given up on net neutrality?

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Organizers say no.“[The loading wheel] explains what is at stake,” says Evan Greer, Campaign Manager at Fight for the Future, one of the groups that organized today’s online action. “And it’s something we will see a lot more of if the FCC does not use its Title II authority.”

Greer is referring to the latest strategy to rescue net neutrality—urging the FCC to reclassify the internet from an information service (Title I) to a telecommunications service (Title II). This would give the FCC the same authority over the internet it currently has over phone companies, and allow it to establish robust net neutrality rules.

Some of the Internet Slowdown Day organizers, including Greer, were also responsible for the “Internet Blackout Day” on January 18, 2012—an online campaign to protest SOPA and PIPA. Not only did over 115,000 websites take part in Internet Blackout Day, but sites made their participation obvious. To highlight the campaign, some sites dramatically changed their front page, while others made their content inaccessible to visitors.

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With such a quiet-in-comparison campaign, is it the internet activists that have given up on net neutrality?

“Comparing every online protest to the SOPA blackout is a bit like comparing every racial protest to the March on Washington,” Greer said, “we have to keep changing tactics to reach new people.”

When asked about websites’ level of participation, he said, “We wanted to give options so everyone could get on board.”

Greer says the size of the “loading” wheel doesn’t matter, and offered a different metric of the campaign’s success. “We've already pushed 367,000+ comments to the FCC and done more than 64,000 phone calls to Congress,” he said.

 

Correction: This article originally quoted Evan Greer as saying, “And it’s something we will see a lot more of if the FCC uses its Title II authority.” It has been corrected to read, “And it’s something we will see a lot more of if the FCC does not use its Title II authority.”

Correction: This article originally read "It's the modern symbl of frustration but an image 76 websites are voluntarily embracing and proudly displaying for today's Internet Slowdown Day." It has been corrected to read, "It’s the modern symbol of frustration but an image 76 major websites and more than 10,000 sites overall are voluntarily embracing and proudly displaying for today’s Internet Slowdown Day."