If you’ve been on the internet today browsing your favorite sites, you may have noticed strange ‘loading screens’ and slower than usual load times. No, the internet isn’t self-destructing, but this is a preview of how the internet could look after September 15th. Various tech websites have banded together for today for an event known as the Internet Slowdown Day to protest a proposed FCC bill that would allow internet service providers to sell ‘internet fast lanes’ to websites for cash. This would prioritize the loading of websites that pay over websites that don’t, which goes against the concept of net neutrality. Net neutrality is a philosophy that has existed for some time now to protect the open nature of the web, stating that all websites and users should have equal opportunity to exist on the internet. This prevents large corporations or governments from strong-arming their way onto the internet and manipulating the content you are allowed to see by blocking or impeding websites that they find reprehensible, thus shattering the concepts of a neutral internet.
So, today notable sites including Netflix, Reddit and even the notorious Pornhub have gotten together and installed widgets on their site that give the appearance of slower loading times, emulating what they believe the internet will look like if the bill passes. This is a critical timing to influence the decisions of the FCC on the proposed guidelines, as the debate is officially closed in five days. Reports from August after the FCC released all the comments made thus far for the public to see were analyzed by the Sunlight Foundation. Over 800,000 comments were sent in, and 99% of the comments argued in favor of stronger protections for net neutrality. Now all that remains is to see if those comments as well as the on-going demonstration influence the FCC in any way, or if the cries of the people will fall on deaf ears.