Spinning Wheels of Death

Today is Internet Slowdown Day, a day of protest and action seeking to preserve “Net Neutrality”- the concept that no content is privileged in it’s delivery to your computer by censorship or commerce.  Our old friend d-day explains.

“Cable companies could make this page so slow, it will still be loading”

David Dayen, Salon

Wednesday, Sep 10, 2014 07:43 AM EST

(T)he spinning wheel is meant to dramatize what would happen if Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler, a former cable industry lobbyist, succeeds in creating an Internet “fast lane.” Under a proposal put out by the FCC in April, companies could pay Comcast or AT&T or Verizon to speed their preferred content to consumers more quickly. This paid prioritization would create a permanent digital divide, reducing competition and innovation on the Internet and discriminating between content for the first time.

Wheeler argued that the FCC would not allow telecoms to “divide haves and have-nots,” saying that under his strategy, the agency would police any abuse of the fast lane on a case-by-case basis. More important, the proposed rules offer a choice, between the Wheeler proposal and a plan that would reclassify broadband Internet as a common carrier service, like phone lines, giving the FCC stronger authority to ensure that no company could discriminate against any kind of content. “We look at reclassification as the only path forward for real net neutrality protections,” said Tim Karr, senior strategy director at Free Press, one of the organizations putting together the Internet Slowdown. “The issue is about our rights to control our Internet experience.”

The FCC’s public comment period for its new Internet rules closes Sept. 15. So during the Internet Slowdown – where the spinning wheel icon will be accompanied by text like “Cable companies could make this page so slow, it will still be loading” – users will be encouraged to sign a letter to the FCC backing reclassification and opposing Internet fast lanes, through an action website called Battle for the Net. The letter will also forward to congressional representatives and the White House. In addition, if users leave their contact information and ZIP code, they will receive a phone call connecting them to the office of their member of Congress, so they can register their personal support for net neutrality.

Even though 4 million people have already delivered comments to the FCC – “it’s the largest response on any rule making in their history,” Karr told Salon – with near-unanimous support for reclassification, the groups organizing the Internet Slowdown feel the issue could still benefit from increased public awareness. The participation of so many websites and advocacy groups ensures that tens of millions of people will see the message today that Internet content should remain free of discrimination. And it’s likely to be just the beginning. “This is an escalation, but it leaves room for further escalation,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, another organizer of the Slowdown.

For someone like me who worked his way into journalism from a personal blog, there would be no way to do what I do without the protections of an open Internet. In a country increasingly dependent on Internet use, people intuitively understand that controlling their daily Web experience will lead to disastrous outcomes. The forces fighting for the Internet are using old-fashioned methods – calls and letters, protests and mass collective action – to protect the most modern technological achievement. Do we still have a society where organizing against concentrated power matters? We’re about to find out.

Because of technical limitations (basically my own hazy understanding of the actual mechanics of our sites and the disastrous results of my last tinkering) we will not be displaying the official logo, but I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a cause that TMC and I and our sites, The Stars Hollow Gazette and DocuDharma do not fully support.

Please contact the FCC today and let them know in language that is polite but capable of no other interpretation or misunderstanding that you are against the Wheeler ‘Fast Lane’ proposal and in favor of regulating broadband Internet as a ‘Common Carrier’.


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