Net Neutrality: Was your Internet slower yesterday?

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If you noticed that the Internet was a little slower than usual yesterday, or that some of your favourite websites looked different, that’s because it was Internet Slowdown Day.

Internet Slowdown Day is a campaign to raise awareness for network neutrality, the idea that all web traffic should be treated the same. Currently some big telecommunications companies want to treat certain websites differently. This is so that they can then charge you more depending on what sites you visit.

Think of it as a system of roads, where currently anyone can travel down the road and visit a destination at the end of it. In a sense, what the big telecomms companies want to do is fix tollbooths to the start of roads where the popular destinations are and then charge you for it. They’ll promise you a faster journey but wont pay attention to the non-tolled roads, meaning it will take you longer to now travel on these roads. When you consider that the current system is fair, free (apart from your monthly subscription to your ISP), you really cannot see what benefit there is to this plan. This is what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently debating, to see whether limits should be set for Internet service providers (ISPs).

Evan Greer, a campaign director at Fight for the Future, a group that helped organize Internet Slowdown Day said:

“The Internet is slow enough already. Our goal is to prevent that from continuing.”

With additional support from Engine Advocacy, political action group Demand Progress and consumer group Free Press Action Fund, Greer managed to get around 10,000 websites to participate in the day’s slowdown. Supports of the campaign displayed a message complete with the ‘wheel of death’ to symbolise the slowing down of the Internet.

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The campaign is hoping to get the message across to Internet users that by having exclusive ‘fast lanes’ for websites that are charging more, other sites will essentially slow down. Campaigners are hoping that even if people do not fully understand the premise behind Net Neutrality, the thought of a slower Internet might spur them into action.

“It’s encouraging to see so many prominent companies participating in the day of action in support of an open Internet,” said Evan Engstrom, Policy Director at Engine, in a statement. “The FCC needs to know that preserving strong net neutrality rules is necessary to ensure that the Internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth.”

One major company that didn’t participate in the Internet Slowdown was Google, although they did make a statement that showed their support for a neutral network:

“If Internet access providers can block some services and cut special deals that prioritize some companies’ content over others, that would threaten the innovation that makes the Internet awesome,” they said.

If you support the campaign for Net Neutrality you can display the logo on your Facebook or Twitter profile, or visit battleforthenet.com and add your signature to the campaigner’s letter to the lawmakers.

The FCC is also taking public comments on the rules until Sept. 15, you can send your comments to them or by emailing them at openinternet@fcc.gov

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