Are you planning on watching some movies tonight on Netflix? Or posting a photo to Tumblr? Or backing a crowdfunded project? You're going to see a lot of spinning wheels. As fall elections heat up and the FCC prepares to close the public comment period on its Open Internet proposal, a cluster of major sites and a number of more minor ones are urging visitors to contact Congress and the FCC and express support for reclassifying broadband internet under the "common carrier" rules that govern phone service and other utilities. This isn't the only net neutrality-related proposal on the table, but it's one that could successfully block internet service providers from providing "fast lanes" to sites that pay more, something FCC chair Tom Wheeler has considered allowing within "commercially reasonable" bounds.
Supporters of that proposal argue that ISPs won't be able to degrade overall quality but can experiment with new tiers of service and business models. To people taking part in the day of action, though, speeding some services up could automatically relegate other parts of the internet to a "slow lane" where ISPs have less incentive to improve quality. And if the new net neutrality rules can't survive a legal challenge (as the last set couldn't), they could theoretically even degrade quality of service. Hence today's protest — if the web gets more data-intensive but internet quality is no longer evenly distributed, the idea goes, you could be seeing a lot more buffering.
The widgets used by some of the sites come from net neutrality coalition Battle for the Net. Some ask you to sign a petition or send an email, while others will let you enter your phone number and directly connect you with a representative from your district, if you're in the US. The FCC is responsible for finalizing a net neutrality framework, but Congress can show support and potentially float legislation in support of the agency. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), for instance, has officially come out in favor of reclassifying broadband under common carrier rules.
No matter what you do, these banners will be popping up until midnight tonight, when the day of action ends.
- If you're visiting Kickstarter's front page, you're learning about net neutrality, period.
- Only logged-in Tumblr users see this, but it's a cool, clever, and unmissable bit of graphic design.
- Netflix's widget is pretty small, but getting it on board was a huge win.
- Foursquare uses one of the basic widgets from Battle for the Net.
- Etsy dressed its widget up in a little frame, but did not put a bird on it.
- Vimeo has harnessed the power of bad video buffering to set your teeth on edge.
- Reddit is an important net neutrality player, but as with its NSA protest, it's not devoting a lot of screen space to it.
- Forget the banner ad up top. Urban Dictionary's front page is pretty clever.
- AVG supports real net neutrality, but only if you do some scrolling.