“It embraces our most basic constitutional freedoms. It’s vital to our democracy.”
A day of action took over the internet yesterday as massive companies and millions of consumers protested for net neutrality.
The call to action was spearheaded by several organizations including Fight for the Future and Demand Progress and was designed to inform the public about the perils of overturning net neutrality. Net neutrality is the basic idea that all sites, no matter how big or small, should have the same bandwidth, loading speeds and access to resources. If net neutrality is revoked it may lead to slow loading times for small sites and spending extra money for premium speeds.
Response to the day of action was swift and vast, as companies including Reddit, Netflix and Amazon all stood together in support. Some companies even changed their services to show what a throttled internet could look like. Popular streaming site Twitch replaced all their emotes with an annoying loading icon, and Netflix posted gifs that would never finish loading, as seen below.
— Netflix US (@netflix) July 12, 2017
A collection of how sites chose to participate can be found here.
The endgame for this call to action was to inform the public about the dangers of revoking net neutrality and encourage them to reach out to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with comments. New FCC chairman Ajit Pai recently unveiled propositions to change the way the internet is accessed by users and is accepting comments on these changes until July 17. New changes would greatly benefit internet service providers (ISPs) as they could charge more for different kinds of speed packages.
Results were unprecedented: The FCC received 1.6 million comments, Congress had three million phone calls/emails and the campaign reached over 10 million total people. Several influential figureheads commented on the battle as well.
“I’ve called net neutrality the free speech issue of our time,” Senator Al Franken tweeted. “It embraces our most basic constitutional freedoms. It’s vital to our democracy.”
50 of the biggest US cities also banded together to pen a letter to the FCC expressing their dismay over possible net neutrality changes. Mayors of New York City, Boston and San Francisco among others wrote about the “negative impact” repealing net neutrality would have on middle-income and working class families.
“Transparent and open internet is a fundamental right of every citizen,” said New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. “Today I stand with other mayors against the repeal of those rules.”
There was some criticism for the protests though. Some complained that it was difficult to see how and where large companies were participating, and despite all of the information available, it can be difficult to convince laypersons into the idea of “saving” net neutrality.
The fight for net neutrality is not over. A similar call to action happened in 2014 and one can bet that more similar to yesterday will happen, and probably sooner than you think.