Most users complain about slow Internet service every once in a while, but some pretty popular websites might be seem slower than ever today. That's because some of your favorite sites are showing their support for Net Neutrality by participating in the Internet Slowdown Day protest. But here's the catch: Your service won't actually be slower than any other day, though it might feel that way.
Back in May, the FCC moved forward with plans to allow Internet "fast lanes." That means large streaming services like Netflix or Amazon could pay for priority traffic to stream their videos and music to you faster.
Net Neutrality advocates have fought hard against this ruling, because they believe it could hurt small businesses and customers. They argue that if big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon can charge more for priority service, what's to stop them from giving their own products faster load times? They also think companies that pay for priority service could end up charging customers more to offset their fast lane bills.
Netflix supports Net Neutrality and recently spoke out against laws in several states that make it difficult for cities and towns like Chattanooga, Tennessee, to improve or expand Internet services, even in rural areas that are underserved by commercial providers. And, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also asked the FCC to reclassify Internet service as a utility similar to telephone service to give ISPs less power.
Net Neutrality supporters also like this idea, and many of them are taking a stand by naming today the official Internet Slowdown Day.
Internet Slowdown Day
Sites like Netflix, Reddit, Vimeo and Etsy are showing their support for Net Neutrality by participating in Internet Slowdown Day. But, don't worry. The protest's bark is worse than its bite. Sites aren't actually going to slow down on purpose. Instead, they're going to display a spinning loading image on their sites to show you what they think the Internet would become with fast lanes.
Etsy has placed the slowdown bar and a message about Internet "slow lanes" on its homepage.
These sites don't want to actually slow down services, because they know that would just make users angry - and probably slow down their business, too.
And, [campaign director for Free Press Tim] Karr and others hope, the masses will contact their member of Congress to push for the FCC to go all-in on what's called Title II reclassification -- that is, regulating the Internet under the provisions of the law that apply to essential communications services.
The protest organizers are also asking everyone to change their profile photos on social media to images of the loading bar, and to share the campaign with other people and businesses to raise awareness and support.
To be honest, I think many of the doomsayer claims about fast lanes are a bit overstated. The FCC has already said that ISPs would have to keep a fundamental level of service available to everyone that's suitable for most tasks. Plus, the FCC also says any deals between companies and ISPs for better service have to have FCC approval.
While it's difficult to predict the future, I don't think you'll notice much of a change at all in the Internet as you know it if ISPs start selling priority service. You'll probably get faster streaming and download times on movies and music, but you'll still be able to reach your favorite sites without disruption.