Stop the Secrecy

The New Yorker: Some times, you just gotta slow the Internet down

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 17:17 -- Eva Prkachin

The Internet Slowdown day made huge waves this week. Here's a great recap of what went down. Now, make sure to help us drive our campaign against the Internet slow lane home: go to right now, sign on, and share widely.

Article by Vauhini Vara for the New Yorker

Visitors to Kickstarter are usually greeted with a Web page listing the projects that they can help to fund—a sous-vide immersion circulator connected to WiFi, a book of photos of Muhammad Ali. But, if you went to the site on Wednesday, you would have been presented instead with a full-screen message. “Stop Internet Slow Lanes,” it began. Under those words was an icon resembling the spinning wheel of death—that cursor on Mac computers that looks a bit like a stylized sun and turns around and around when something is taking a long time to load. Kickstarter, along with Netflix, Etsy, Tumblr, Reddit, and thousands of other sites, was engaged in an act of protest known as Internet Slowdown Day.

Contrary to what the name suggests, Internet Slowdown Day didn’t actually slow down the Internet, or even any of the Web sites involved. Instead, the sites displayed the spinning-wheel image with messages explaining that “slow lanes” were about to be imposed on parts of the Internet. Visitors were encouraged to take action by clicking, which brought them to a site where they could read all about these slow lanes and send messages to the Federal Communications Commission, members of Congress, and the White House.

The reference to slow lanes has to do with the principle of net neutrality—the notion that all Web traffic should be treated the same and that Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon shouldn’t be allowed to charge certain companies for the right to provide some content at faster rates. Proponents of net neutrality argue that it is a matter of fairness: if media conglomerates like Disney can buy access to “fast lanes” while cash-strapped startups can’t, Internet users will eventually start gravitating away from smaller Web sites and toward big, powerful ones. Opponents contend that this is an overreaction; the Internet isn’t a utility like water or electricity, they point out, and shouldn’t be regulated like one.

- Read more at the New Yorker