For some in the online community, the best way to protest the FCC's proposed rules that would end net neutrality is to slow down the Internet.
Last month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced plans to propose new rules that would allow broadband providers to "enter into individual negotiations with content providers." The news was met with criticism both from individuals and from major tech companies.
A vote over starting the formal process for turning Wheeler's proposal into law is scheduled to take place on May 15. And while various protests and online campaigns targeting the FCC are already in the works, some opponents are suggesting a more direct plan of action.
Slow down the the Internet.
On Wednesday, tech investor and Techstars co-founder Brad Feld published a blog entry titled, "Dear Internet: Let's Demo The Slow Lane."
Feld's idea takes a page from the SOPA/PIPA Internet blackout of 2012. On January 18, 2012, thousands of websites — including Tumblr, Reddit and Wikipedia — participated in the anti-SOPA protest by obscuring or preventing access to their websites.
That campaign helped push the SOPA/PIPA conversation into the mainstream, which led to Congress killing the bill a mere two days later.
websites algorithmically slow themselves down to demonstrate what a "slow lane" would look like.websites algorithmically slow themselves down to demonstrate what a "slow lane" would look like. He wrote:
Let the world see "Waiting for", "Connecting", and "Buffering" show up in their browser continuously throughout the day. Explain what is going on. Then click a button to bypass the Slow Lane and get normal connectivity.Instead of everyone getting tangled up in the legal question of what "net neutrality" means, consumers can see what could happen if / when ISPs can decide which companies get to use their fast lanes by paying extra and who is relegated to the slow lane.
Anyone wanting to know what that kind of experience would be like can check out dontcallitafastlane.com.
Slow down the FCC's Internet
Why punish us all with a day-long Internet slow down? An alternate plan: just punish the FCC. That's an idea developer Kyle Drake proposed on Thursday.
Drake runs the free website creator NeoCities, a site that aims to recreate GeoCities for the modern age.
On the NeoCities blog, Drake announced that NeoCities will throttle all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds. He says he won't remove the throttle until the FCC pays his site for the bandwidth it's been "wasting instead of doing [its] jobs protecting us from the 'keep America's internet slow and expensive forever' lobby."
Drake's rallying cry was tongue-in-cheek, but he did create code that will mimic a 28.8kbps connection if someone within the FCC's IP range accesses a site.
The code for Nginx is GitHub; an [Apache version] is available as well. Site owners that want to throttle FCC traffic can download it there.
Humor aside, this solution is unlikely to have any impact on the FCC — but it is a demonstration of how a more widespread Internet slowdown could happen.
What's the goal?
Thus far, no major companies or entities have come out in support of Feld's or Drake's ideas. Still, the SOPA/PIPA protests started slowly too, with momentum building the day before the blackout.
The main question is whether a slow-down protest would have any impact. But it is undoubtedly worth starting a broader conversation about what the Internet community can do together to protest the FCC's proposed rules.