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Internet Slowdown day arrives, but some big companies aren’t participating

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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:

Etsy slowdown

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:

Google stop SOPA

Wikipedia blackout


8 Responses to “Internet Slowdown day arrives, but some big companies aren’t participating”

  1. Ric Sansand

    Google loses my loyalty a little bit more everyday! May have to send them packing like FB.! Its time to regulate the dumbpipes and make Internet access the infrastructure issue it has always been and ensure the monopolies cease here and now.

    • J Cloutier

      In what way is regulating the “dumb pipes” in this way (ISPs dictating how quickly you, the consumer, can access data from specific websites) going to somehow fix monopolies? You complain about Google for some reason, but Google is not a major ISP. The issue is AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, et al. These companies are monopolies and they will be the ones to benefit from this. Google doesn’t win or lose with this. They have enough money to pay off the other companies. If you don’t like that Google is a massive chunk of search and advertising on the Internet why would you support something that could stop smaller company’s growth before they can begin to really challenge the bigger companies like Google?

    • Thanks for the commnet, jjj. I wouldn’t go far as to call them “the enemy”, but you make a very good point that Google and FB want to be broadband providers in their own right in the developing world — and, yes, likely on their own (non-neutral) terms

  2. Doug Erwin

    The biggest problem, IMO, is that the status quo is limiting the NUMBER of lanes. It is time to get state and local governments out of the restraint of trade franchising agreements the have with the current providers. If actual free competition were allowed, we would be amazed at changes in service, capacity and price.

    Under the current system, I say let them charge NetFlix extra for the bandwidth they are using. NF will then pass that cost on to me. Then I decided if it has value to me.

    • Agree 100% with your comment regarding Netflix and the value of opening up more competitive lanes. Whether free competition would bring big performance improvements is another question. So far we are not seeing that in places where Verizon or ATT Fiber competes with cable… in fact the fiber offerings seem to lag behind monopoly cable performance. If we look at differences in broadband performance across US states or globally, the most significant factor seems to be geographic density. People get higher speeds where they live more densely. Possibly, we are paying about what it costs to deliver broadband to our homes, and the whining we hear is nothing more than whining.

  3. Veronica K

    If internet speed is allowed to be controlled and dictated by money than in very short order, it will fall victim to the same thing that controls our political process….money.
    The “haves” will get bigger through legislation and the “have not’s” will wither away. By the time we realize what the end game really looks like, it will be too late to reverse the damage…