Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Internet Slowdown Day Is Sept. 10. Here's Why It Matters.

Back in February, the D.C. Circuit Court struck down the FCC's net neutrality rules, necessitating new regulations.

Earlier this year, the FCC opened its proposed regulations for public comment. The comment period was set to close on Wednesday, September 10, but has been extended to September 15.

To honor the end of the comment period, the activist group Battle for the Net announced that September 10 will be "Internet Slowdown Day." To show your support for net neutrality, go to the website, then use whatever method you'd like to change your website or Twitter avatar to a spinning gear icon, which represents the slowdown that would result if net neutrality were abolished. (Of course, websites won't actually be slowing down.)

Why It's Important

Net neutrality is the concept that all traffic on the Internet should be treated the same by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner. The ISPs would much rather treat traffic differently, charging customers more for high-demand websites like Netflix. (Indeed, they're already doing this -- Comcast has made Netflix pay extra for the privilege of not having its traffic throttled, meaning that Comcast is getting paid twice to deliver the same data: once by you, their customer, and once again by Netflix.)

The FCC's proposed net neutrality rules would permit the creation of a "fast lane," allowing ISPs to charge extra for faster access to content of their choosing. Net neutrality proponents say that violates the spirit and intention of the Internet, which is to treat all bytes the same.

While the FCC had previously analogized ISPs to "common carriers" that can't discriminate in ferrying people and goods, the D.C. Circuit said the existing regulatory framework didn't permit that analogy -- though the FCC could certainly alter its regulations to allow that.

Concern for New Businesses

Net neutrality isn't just about being able to watch "Scandal" on demand. The Internet's openness and indiscriminate traffic delivery has meant that anyone can set up shop on the Internet and not have to worry about engaging in exclusive deals for traffic delivery. If net neutrality falls, the fear is that a business will have to "pay to play" if it wants customer access to its website to be faster than to competitors' websites. (Believe it or not, a few seconds of waiting makes a big difference.)

Net neutrality is something that everyone should care about -- and does, apparently. Tech Crunch reported that as of August 15, the FCC had received 1.1 million comments on the proposal, a number second only to Janet Jackson's 2004 "wardrobe malfunction."

If you want to add your voice to the debate, go to the FCC's comment website and select proposal No. 14-28.

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