Net Neutrality Advocates Organize Symbolic Slowdown To Protest FCC's Fast-Lane Proposal

On Jan. 18, 2012, some of the largest sites on the Web -- including Wikipedia and Reddit -- went dark as part of an effort to call attention to the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Google blacked out its logo on that date, and asked users to sign an online petition opposing the bill. Craigslist greeted users with the message: “Imagine a world without craigslist, Wikipedia, Google, [your favorite sites here],” the message read. “News Corp., RIAA, MPAA, Nike, Sony, Comcast, VISA & others want to make that world your reality.”

The campaign worked. By the end of the day, key lawmakers had withdrawn their support for the proposed anti-piracy legislation, which many digital rights advocates said posed a significant threat to the Internet as an open platform.

Now, advocacy groups hope to once again enlist content companies in a policy battle -- this time over net neutrality.

On Sept. 10, a host of Web sites, social networks and others will ask visitors to support net neutrality principles. Free Press, which is publicizing the protests, says that participating sites will display icons that “symbolize” a slower Web, but that the sites will load at the same speeds as always.

Free Press hasn't yet released the names of sites that have agreed to participate in the symbolic slowdown, but some of the groups that are organizing the protests include the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, DailyKos, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation and MoveOn.

The organizations aim to rally opposition to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's pay-for-play fast lanes proposal, which would allow broadband providers to charge content companies a premium for faster delivery.

The FCC voted in May to move forward with that proposal by soliciting feedback. So far, numerous people and organizations -- individuals as well as companies like The New York Times -- have voiced opposition to the idea. Many are calling for the FCC to instead reclassify broadband as a Title II “telecommunications” service, subject to the same common carrier rules that require telephone companies to put through all calls.

Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement today that the “public outcry” against Wheeler's plan is growing louder. “The Internet Slowdown will show millions more people what a world without real Net Neutrality would look like,” he stated. “If you claim to support the free and open Internet, you must pick a side in this battle. And being on Team Internet means you support reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.”

The FCC is accepting comments until Sept. 15.

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