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Internet Moving Like Molasses? It's (Virtual) Slowdown Day

PHOTO: Few things are as maddening as a slow Internet connection. That's why many websites are participating in today's online protest of a proposal to allow some companies to offer faster Internet speeds at higher prices to some customers, leaving others in the virtual slow lane. Photo credit: Nelik/iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: Few things are as maddening as a slow Internet connection. That's why many websites are participating in today's online protest of a proposal to allow some companies to offer faster Internet speeds at higher prices to some customers, leaving others in the virtual slow lane. Photo credit: Nelik/iStockphoto.com.
September 10, 2014

SEATTLE - The Internet may seem to be a bit sluggish today - but it's actually part of an effort to prevent a future where, according to advocates for Internet freedom, some people online would have priority over others.

If you visit websites such as Reddit, Netflix, Kickstarter, Foursquare or Vimeo, you may see an image that some call the "spinning wheel of death." Timothy Karr, senior director of the group Free Press, said it has come to symbolize the frustration of having a slow Internet connection.

"That icon that appears when your website has troubles loading a document or a video, or a music file or something like that," he said. "It's a very familiar frustration for Internet users."

Today's slowdown also is symbolic. It's a protest of a government plan to let some deep-pocketed broadband providers divide bandwidth into "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" - and charge more for the fast lanes.

Two years ago, in opposition to legislation involving copyrights, many websites took part in a partial blackout of the Internet, with some - such as Wikipedia - shutting down completely for a day. Today's protest may be symbolic, Karr said, but it reflects serious public concerns about the need to keep a free and open Internet.

"The Sunlight Foundation looked at public comments to the FCC - and there have been more than a million already - and they found that 99 percent of those comments were in support of net neutrality," he said. "So, this is an issue where the public is strongly unified."

Since May, Karr said, the Federal Communications Commission has been inundated with public comments on the proposal, most of them in opposition. Actual - not virtual - lunchtime rallies will be held in some cities next Monday, Sept. 15, the last day the FCC is taking comments.

More information is online at battleforthenet.com/sept10th.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA