Internet Slowdown Day becomes an online picket protest

Net neutrality backers try to raise awareness of the issue one 'loading' symbol at a time

Slow binary snail.
Credit: Thinkstock

Have you noticed more spinning "loading" icons on Web pages today?

Organizations backing stronger net neutrality rules certainly are hoping you have.

Today is Internet Slowdown Day, which is intended to draw public attention to the debate over net neutrality and efforts to ensure that Internet service providers and governments treat all data crossing the Internet equally.

No, don't worry. There isn't actually a slow down in your service today.

The companies involved, including Reddit, Mozilla, Netflix, Foursquare and Digg, don't want to frustrate users or hurt their business by purposefully slowing down their service today. Instead, they're adding the spinning "loading" logo to their sites to show their support for net neutrality.

Think of it as an online demonstration and the "loading" symbols are site's picket signs.

"On September 10th, sites across the web will display an alert with a symbolic "loading" symbol (the proverbial "spinning wheel of death") and promote a call to action for users to push comments to the FCC, Congress, and the White House," the nonprofit group Fight for the Future noted on the Battle for the Net site. "This is the time to go big, visible, and strong."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said activists are hoping to send a message to Internet service providers that they shouldn't give special treatment, or impose extra charges, based on the user, platform, application, content or site."

"This could be a very effective way of staging a protest and educating people," Moorhead said. "It's important that people better understand the issue. This is a way to do that."

Etsy Slowdown Day site took part in the Internet Slowdown Day.

Tumblr, which posted a video featuring actor Mark Ruffalo speaking in support of net neutrality, also posted its own statement.

"Long story short: The FCC is about to make a critical decision as to whether or not Internet service providers have to treat all traffic equally," the site's executives wrote. "If they choose wrong, then the Internet where anyone can start a Website for any reason at all, the Internet that's been so momentous, funny, weird, and surprising -- that Internet could cease to exist. Here's your chance to preserve a beautiful thing."

On , a wizard pops up saying, "If there were Internet slow lanes, you'd still be waiting."

Etsy, an e-commerce site that sells handmade and vintage items, has a message on its homepage, stating, "Etsy opposes the FCC's proposed rule to let big companies pay for faster access to consumers, leaving small independent businesses in the Internet slow lane. Will you join us in the fight to protect an open Internet?"

The site also provides a link to a page for users to contact their congressional representatives about the issue.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said he backs net neutrality and is glad the slowdown day could raise awareness.

"I like the initiative," Kerravala said. "I think the FCC is wrong to propose paid prioritization. The Internet was founded on a premise of a global, connected network where all traffic is treated the same way. Changing the net neutrality laws could significantly hamper consumer services negatively."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said the fact that there isn't an actual, purposeful slowdown on any of the participating sites doesn't take away from the message.

"Sustained awareness is critical here," he added. "I think net neutrality is essential for the development of the Web. It's not just some big companies against other big companies."

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