What is the ‘Great Internet Slowdown’?

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I didn’t even know about this until someone sent an email round at work, but tomorrow, September 10th, there’s going to be a protest against potential new rules which will allow some internet providers to give prevalence of quicker internet to those who pay a bit more for access to certain content providers.

All sorts of big sites are already confirmed for joining in with the protest, like Reddit, Netflix and WordPress. When you try to access these sites tomorrow, there’s going to be an irritating ‘loading’ icon (Battle for the Net are, rather pleasingly, calling it ‘the spinning wheel of death’), so you can get a good idea of what life will be like if your favourite sites don’t hand over your ISP a bit of extra cash.

This protest has been set up by the aforementioned Battle for the Net, who have always been active in the field of promoting net neutrality. Their last big moment was when SOPA was everywhere; remember that, when loads of websites protested by putting black rectangles over loads of their content?

How it (Might) Work

The Federal Communications Commission first, according to reports, proposed charging big companies such as Netflix in order to offer some level of priority to its customers back in May. Which in turn, of course, would mean additional charges to whoever wants to see these sites without waiting an age for them to load (an ‘age’ in current internet terms probably meaning about 30 seconds).

The argument from service providers such as Verizon is that they provide a service to websites, and it’s only right that they get a slice of the pie.

Fair enough for great big sites like Amazon, but there’s concerns that smaller sites won’t be able to meet the bills.

Should we Panic?

Alright, look; you’re still going to be able to browse the internet tommorow. The protest isn’t actually going to stop webpages from loading, but it looks like you will need to click on the loading wheel first, like one of those annoying CRO pop-ups. I’m not sure how sites are going to do it.

As is stands, the FCC’s potential new rules are still under review. ISPs may be able to offer a ‘fast lane’ service, and give slower internet to those who don’t opt for the ‘fast lane’ version, but the public outcry has so far been very against the move.

In all fairness, think about how much revenue big services get out of the internet, without directly paying for it. Netflix, for example, does pretty well on the back of ISPs.

But it does seem unfair that those who can’t afford to pay for the ‘fast lanes’ can’t access sites as easily. It is pretty much discriminating against those who don’t have have the extra cash to spend.

At the moment, the potential move only seems to affect those in the US. But if the legislation is passed, it’s only so long before it moves elsewhere.

If you want to get involved, visit Battle for the Net. I won’t be installing one of the loading icons for the simple reason that I don’t want to scare away the very few people who visit this site (although I do think introducing a tier system for internet access is ridiculous), but you can the codes there.

Written by Sarah Chalk

Sarah Chalk

Sarah is an SEO Account Manager at 360i and has a keen interest in all things SEO. She has also written for a number of sites, including Vue cinema’s film blog and a number of tech websites.

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