WASHINGTON -- Popular websites including Netflix, Mozilla, reddit and Kickstarter launched a daylong online protest called Internet Slowdown Day on Wednesday to oppose the controversial proposed changes to net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission.
The banners on participating websites featured an endlessly spinning "still loading" symbol, meant to warn visitors about the so-called "pay for play" Internet the new rules could create. This new web would be divided between those able to pay for a speedy pipe to consumers and those who can't, protesters say.
Participating websites ranged from online crafts marketplace Etsy to inspirational news site Upworthy and adult content hubs.
The proposed new federal rules would allow companies to pay Internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T a fee to move their online content through a fast lane. The deep pockets of companies such as Google, Amazon and Skype would be able to guarantee smooth streaming for their users, putting startups and innovative companies that can't compete at a disadvantage, net activists say.
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While the participating websites didn't actually slow down their service during Wednesday's protest, they say the high visibility of their messages and social media campaigns might add another flood of feedback to the already record-breaking 1.2 million comments that crashed the FCC website in July.
Netflix put up a banner on its homepage telling visitors, "If there were Internet slow lanes, you'd still be waiting," and urging them to take action. Many net advocacy groups such as the Computer and Communications Industry Association called attention to the protest through pop-up messages when users entered their sites.
Internet advocates maintain that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed rules, which could be finalized as early as this year, would eliminate the level playing field that would allow the next Twitter or YouTube to get off the ground.
Etsy, an online market
place for handmade items that participated in Wednesday's protest, said the new rules would make it difficult for its business to compete with more established brands.
"For the price of an Internet connection, anyone can spread new ideas or start a business -- even spark a new industry," the company said in a message on its site. "It is what allowed Etsy to grow from a tiny company in a Brooklyn apartment to a global platform for more than one million sellers worldwide."
Opponents to the proposed rules have been raising the alarm for months, protesting that the regulation would ruin net neutrality, the concept that all online content should be treated equally without interference.
For now, the commission is working on reviewing the comments submitted by the public, said FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield.
"There are currently no rules on the books to prevent ISPs from blocking or degrading the public's access to content online," Wigfield told McClatchy.