The tech industry is preparing to take a stand for net neutrality…again. Facebook, Google, and other companies have all pledged their support to the Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality planned by the Fight for the Future nonprofit organization. The Day of Action has a simple goal: convincing people who use some of the world’s most popular websites to oppose the FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality protections.
Loosely defined, net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) shouldn’t be able to discriminate between data sources. The go-to example is the threat of tiered internet packages that would require you to pay extra for access to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and so on. Other worries include the potential for premium lanes, which would see ISPs charge high-traffic companies for speedy data delivery to their customers, and giving ISP-offered services a leg up on the competition by offering free access to them or boosting their data transfer speeds.
Put another way: a byte is a byte is a byte, and expecting people to pay more for data simply because it comes from a particular source defies the idea of the open Web. That’s why the FCC sought to protect net neutrality under the Obama administration and former chairman Tom Wheeler. Now the current leadership, chaired by Ajit Pai, wants to roll back those safeguards and reduce the FCC’s influence over the internet.
In April, the FCC said that removing these protections would create jobs, defend Americans’ privacy, and encourage ISPs to build out their infrastructure in under-served areas. Not long after, the agency said that it “took the first step toward restoring internet freedom and promoting infrastructure investment, innovation, and choice” by voting to move forward with Pai’s proposal despite backlash from many U.S. citizens.
Not that the agency believes all that feedback is legitimate. The FCC said that its comments website was targeted by distributed-denial of service (DDoS) attacks soon after Last Week Tonight host John Oliver once again encouraged his viewers to support net neutrality. Now some of the world’s largest tech companies will echo Oliver in encouraging their audiences to stand up for an open Web by opposing the FCC’s proposal.
Fight for the Future said that more than 70,000 people, sites, and organizations have signed on to support the Day of Action by displaying “prominent messages” on their homepages or “using push notifications, videos, social media, and emails” to encourage their users to take action. Supporters include tech companies like Twitter, Amazon, and Netflix; digital rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, and Demand Progress; and media companies like O’Reilly Media and Funny or Die, with more members to be announced in the future.
Here’s what Fight for the Future said on the Day of Action’s website:
The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees. On July 12th, the Internet will come together to stop them.
Don’t be surprised if some of your favorite sites look a little different on July 12, or if you receive messages from them encouraging you to stand against the FCC’s plans. These companies don’t agree on much, but they all seem to abide by the adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We’ll find out just how much of a difference this belief can make when the Day of Action kicks off in just a few days.