If the Internet seems a little slower than usual today, it’s probably not. But it may look that way due to a protest from Net Neutrality advocates around the web. Sites like Netflix, WordPress, and Reddit will be displaying loading symbols on their front pages to show their support for equal treatment of all the data flowing through the Internet.
Taking a page from the It’s a Wonderful Life playbook, the protest aims to show their users what an Internet without Net Neutrality could look like by placing loading symbols on the pages of popular sites like Netflix, Upworthy, Vimeo, and Reddit. It’s not just tech companies that are getting in the mix, though. A wide variety of nonprofits, including Greenpeace, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union are also taking part in the protest.
While pages won’t actually load more slowly, the symbols are meant to serve as warnings of what the Internet could look like if Internet service providers are allowed to discriminate between different kinds of content. That discrimination, advocates say, could mean a whole lot of loading pages for Internet users.
Without a neutral network, advocates worry that ISPs could throttle delivery of some kinds of content. Throttling of sites could be used to drive online shoppers to sites that have paid the ISP for fast access, or ones they own outright. Others have expressed concern that a non-neutral Internet could make doing business cost-prohibitive for startups, keeping new ideas and entrepreneurs out of the market and stifling innovation. Nonprofits and educational institutions on tighter budgets could be left out in the cold—without the funds to pay for fast lane access, people trying to access these sites could be kept waiting as more bandwidth is devoted to paying customers like entertainment companies.
Organizers hope to turn the attention they get from the loading pages into tweets, emails and phone calls to lawmakers and FCC officials from constituents, encouraging them to support Net Neutrality. “Since Comcast and the FCC continue to work on slipping paid prioritization through, we’re going to show the world what they’re really calling for,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, one of several organizations working to organize the protest.
The action is being organized by Battle For The Net, a team of technology and media advocacy organizations including Demand Progress, Free Press, Fight for the Future, and the startup advocacy group Engine.