The last time the US had a major fight over net neutrality, the “Internet Slowdown Day” protests were credited with helping push the FCC to reclassify the internet as a Title II utility. Now that net neutrality is the closest it’s ever been to dead, activists and tech giants are rallying to mount a protest, and we’re about to find out if it’s possible to save the internet one more time.
For both the “Internet Slowdown Day” and its predecessor, the “Internet Blackout Day”, the activist group Fight for the Future rallied the most popular sites on the web to demonstrate their opposition to net neutrality by making changes to their home pages or user experience. A popular tactic was to make the page load very slowly to give people an idea of what would happen when all traffic on the internet isn’t treated equally.
Now, Fight for the Future is putting the band back together for another protest, and you can expect your web surfing to be a little odd on July 12. So far, dozens of organisations have signed on. The biggest names include Amazon, Reddit, Vimeo, GitHub, Kickstarter and Etsy. Still, the list isn’t nearly as large as the past actions. They have a little over a month to pull in others and surely more will jump on board.
Public attention on this new attempt to give telecoms free reign over which sites get preferential treatment has seemed a bit more subdued this time around. Some have argued that the way the issue is presented to the public is boring and confusing. At the same time, Mozilla published a poll today that found 76 per cent of Americans support net neutrality. So, the support seems to be there, it just isn’t particularly loud. And people in the US are currently having to protest about everything from saving science, to saving the planet, to saving immigrants, to well… pretty much every issue is going wrong at the moment. It’s totally understandable that net neutrality isn’t at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Hopefully, this day of action will help kick people into gear.
One way you can help get the ball rolling is to encourage companies to join in on July 12. We’re waiting to hear from you Google. Where you at Facebook? Above all, maybe let Netflix know that it’s participation matters to you. The streaming service’s CEO, Reed Hastings, said last week that the issue doesn’t really matter to his company any more and that the end of net neutrality is inevitable. Netflix might be big enough to negotiate a favourable deal with telecoms now, but it won’t be if it loses its customers.