The 'Battle for the Net': Companies fighting to save free and open Internet access
By RYAN GORMAN
Several brand name websites are banding together to protest the end of equal Internet access for all.
Net neutrality is what keeps the Internet free and open from corporate interests, but recent deals by Netflix to secure bandwidth from cable companies are brining that to an end.
Activist group Battle for the Net is organizing a September 10 Internet protest and has been joined by the likes of Etsy, Foursquare, General Assembly Imgur, Kickstarter, Namecheap, Reddit, Vimeo, WordPress and others.
The sites are colluding to use animations meant to simulate the slower load times on their websites and services in a way similar to how activists and experts believe cable companies will if net neutrality is allowed to go the way of the Dodo.
"Cable companies want to slow down (and break!) your favorite sites, for profit," Battle for the Net claims on its website.
The group is urging people to put GIFs on websites similar to the one below and to also inundate regulators and politicians with emails protesting what it feels is the end of open and free Internet days.
The Federal Communications Commission first introduced net neutrality rules in 2010. They require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide fair and equal "lanes" for all web traffic regardless of content.
Those rules were tossed earlier this year by a U.S. appeals court, an action that may forever change how Americans – and eventually the world – accesses the Internet.
The court ruled that ISPs are not utilities like phone and electric companies, and that they are free to charge for their services however they see fit.
This brought a wave of deals between bandwidth-hungry Netflix and Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and others.
Experts claimed immediately after the ruling in a Wall Street Journal report that tiered web access, in which sites who pony up the most money are afforded the fastest loading times, would soon become the norm.
"It takes the Internet into completely uncharted territory," Tim Wu, the Columbia University law professor who first coined the term net neutrality, told the Journal.
The fear is that those costs would then be passed onto web surfers, leading to a barrier to entry for less-prosperous people.
In a Wired op-ed announcing Etsy's participation in the September 10 protest, site founder and CEO Chad Dickerson wrote that "the FCC has proposed an end to the open Internet... If internet users find it too difficult to load our websites and see our products, it will be impossible for us to grow or succeed."
Dickerson also argued that allowing ISPs to dictate how information flows around the web would "kill permissionless innovation and free expression.
"Companies would succeed because of deals struck with cable companies, not because of superior products."
That sentiment is being echoed not only in forums and article comments, but also in the more than one million comments sent to the FCC in response to a recent proposal basically bringing an end to net neutrality.
Less than one percent of the comments received supported an end to net neutrality, according to a Washington Post report.
Of those comments, about 500,000 came from individuals concerned about their access to the web. The rest came from foundations, law firms, companies and other organizations.
Tell us how you feel in the comments and answer our poll. Are you for net neutrality or against it?