Web activists are planning an online protest for next week to press federal regulators for stronger rules to protect net neutrality, or the idea that all web content should be treated equally.
The activists are asking websites and social networks to join the protest on Sept. 10 by embedding special code on their sites depicting a “loading” icon, which they say symbolizes how Internet traffic could be slowed down if regulators don't create stronger net neutrality rules. The code would also give visitors a way to submit comments supporting net neutrality to the Federal Communications Commission and to elected officials.
The protesters want sites to embed this loading icon next week.
The groups organizing the protest include Demand Progress, a political action group focused on shaping debate on Internet policy, Free Press, a consumer group, and Fight for the Future, a nonprofit that assisted with the organization of online protests in 2012 that helped derail the controversial anti-piracy bills called SOPA and PIPA.
The organizers said “many” tech companies and social networks are planning to participate in the protest, which they’re calling an “Internet slow down," but declined to name them until later this week.
“Cable companies want to slow down (and break!) your favorite sites, for profit,” the groups said on their website, battleforthenet.com. “To fight back, let's cover the web with 'loading' icons, to remind everyone what an Internet without net neutrality would look like, and drive record numbers of emails and calls to lawmakers.”
The protest marks the latest push by web activists in the debate over how to keep the Internet free and open. Earlier this year, the FCC proposed new rules that would allow Internet providers like Verizon and Comcast to charge web companies like Netflix for access to a so-called Internet "fast lane," which would give sites faster loading times.
The groups organizing the protest argue the FCC should have more authority over Internet providers to ensure they don't discriminate against certain web content. If Internet providers are allowed to charge web companies for faster service, it would lead to higher costs being passed on to consumers and could prevent startups from competing with larger companies that can afford to pay for access to faster service, advocates say.
Internet providers have strongly opposed more oversight from the FCC, arguing that regulations would deter them from further investing in their broadband networks. They've been supported by many Republican lawmakers in Congress.
The FCC has received more than 1 million comments on the net neutrality issue this year, with nearly all of the commenters calling on Internet providers to be subjected to stronger government oversight. The FCC has extended the deadline for comments on the rules to Sept. 15, and is expected to decide on its proposal by the end of the year.