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Today is the day that Netflix, Reddit and others are taking part in “internet slowdown day” to protest the FCC’s proposal to create special “fast lanes” on the internet. To draw attention to the issue, many participants are displaying “spinning wheel” icons, such as the one appearing on site Etsy on Wednesday:
The [company]Etsy[/company] website, and those of others involved in the protest, are not loading any differently than usual, but are displaying the spinning wheel to invoke the frustration of slow internet speeds. The participants hope the gesture will spur users to voice their displeasure to the FCC about the “fast lane” plan, which would permit broadband providers like [company]Comcast[/company] to give special treatment to partners or to websites that pay a toll.
The protest has attracted support from dozens of companies, including [company]Twitter[/company] and [company]Kickstarter[/company], and earned attention from the BBC and the Wall Street Journal. Still, it feels like the whole thing has come up a bit flat — especially compared to a landmark day in 2012 when the internet “went dark” to protest a planned anti-piracy law called SOPA.
That 2012 protest shook Washington, and SOPA died soon after. “Internet slowdown day,” in contrast, so far seems unlikely to have similar reverberations.
The most obvious reason is that many of the big names that took part in the “stop SOPA” protests — notably [company]Google[/company], [company]Facebook[/company] and [company]Wikipedia[/company] — are sitting this one out. Their absence could deprive the fast lane opponents of the attention, momentum and money that will likely be needed to make the FCC change course.
In the case of Google, the company’s absence from “internet slowdown day” could be because the proposed alternative to fast lanes, known as “Title II reclassification,” could crimp the company’s own ambitions for its Fiber network.
As for Wikipedia, another key partisan in the SOPA fight, the top of its webpage does not feature a spinning wheel atop its page, but instead the usual plea for money.
In contrast, here is what Google and Wikipedia looked like on “internet blackout day” on January 18, 2012: