(TNS) -- Pushing back against proposed federal changes, a coalition of tech companies and public advocacy groups will hold a “Day of Action” next week to encourage supporters to fight for net neutrality.
More than 180 organizations and companies, including tech giants Google, Facebook, and Amazon, will join the online protest July 12, in advance of the Federal Communications Commission considering a proposal to roll back net neutrality regulations adopted during the Obama administration.
Net neutrality is a longstanding digital principle that internet service providers should treat all web traffic equally and fairly. This means providers cannot prefer one website or service over the other by granting unequal loading speeds or by blocking or slowing content.
Its supporters argue it is a critical principle of the internet that needs to be preserved.
“Net neutrality is a bread-and-butter issue like health care,” said Evan Greer, the campaign director for the advocacy group Fight for the Future, which helped organize the event. “It impacts every single person in the country. They can expect cost of service of internet to go up and see that money go to the big ISPs.”
But others disagree. Internet services providers like Comcast and AT&T have protested the regulations, known as Title II, and in a 2-1 vote in May, the FCC agreed to review the rules.
Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says the rollback is necessary because Title II is a “bureaucratic straitjacket” on large internet service providers and inhibits companies from building more broadband infrastructure across the country and experimenting with new technologies.
“The utility-style regulations known as Title II were and are like the proverbial sledgehammer being wielded against the flea,” said Pai after the vote. “Except that here, there was no flea.”
As the rollback proposal waits in an initial comment period until July 17, the FCC already has received more than 5 million comments, more than any proceedings in its history. Before the May vote, tens of thousands of anti-net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC were identified as fraudulently written by bots, raising concerns about whether the discourse may become muddled.
Internet companies participating in the Day of Action plan to open the floodgates for even more comments — but with their own special twists.
Online dating website OkCupid plans to send its users an in-app message asking them to speak out through the Day of Action website, battleforthenet.com. Video streaming site Vimeo plans to share an explainer video supporting net neutrality. Open-source web browser company Mozilla plans to add a bulletin under its Firefox search bar which will direct users to reading the 42,000 public comments it collected.
Google, Facebook and Twitter all declined to comment on what their plans are for July 12. Netflix won’t disclose its Day of Action plans but says it will be “noticeable” for its users.
Other websites plan to display a prominent alert on their homepage ranging from the “spinning wheel of death” — a mouse icon signaling an application is busy — to a “blocked” notification to illustrate a world without net neutrality. No company plans to actually slow down or block consumers from using their service.
The Day of Action isn’t the first large protest to use these tactics. In 2014, the “Internet Slowdown Day” relied on the same loading icons and alerts — without actually slowing down the internet — to push for net neutrality regulations, according to Pierce Stanley, a tech exchange fellow at the non-profit advocacy group Demand Progress.
“We got the band back together because we have to go fight again,” said Stanley.
Despite large internet service providers arguing Title II is bad for everyone in the industry, smaller ISPs have sided with preserving net neutrality. Bay Area-based ISP Sonic will be participating in the Day of Action and was one of 22 ISPs that signed onto a letter to the House of Representatives supporting net neutrality.
“A competitive market is necessary for customers to have the best service at an affordable price,” said Sonic CEO Dane Jasper in a statement. “The slow demise of net neutrality will not favor the consumer, putting more power in the hands of internet service incumbents, stunting innovation and growth.”
Large ISPs like Comcast and AT&T have argued against the rules. Comcast did not respond to a request for comment.
“Everyone, including AT&T, agrees that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression in the United States and around the world,” said an AT&T spokesperson. “We’ve always supported our customers’ right to an open internet… no blocking, no discriminatory throttling, no censorship, be transparent.”
©2017 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.