It’ll come as a surprise to most every-day web users that the Internet we know and love (most of the time!!!) is subject to constant debate amongst governments and corporations across the world.
Most recently, a group of senators in the USA, backed by several of the country’s biggest communications companies, is engaged in a campaign to end Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality describes the principle that all online data is treated equally, regardless of who created it. This means the internet remains one of the few fields where anyone can enter into fair competition with anyone else. It’s how a start-up company can supplant an established name. For example, it’s how Facebook replaced Myspace, or how Skype replaced MSN Messenger.
So why do these people want to end Net Neutrality? Their plan is to create an “Internet fast lane” to ensure they can charge tech companies more to deliver content to their clients faster. Netflix, for example, might pay a premium to ensure they can stream films to their customers more reliably.
Whilst on the surface this seems like a good idea, the concern is that by creating a “fast lane” you will subsequently create a “slow lane”. The majority of existing sites around the world would be subjected to the slow lane as they simply wouldn’t be able to afford the premium. Bandwidth and resources will be dedicated to those companies paying a premium for the fast lane – if you’re not in the fast lane? Tough.
In fact, it’s such a bad idea that some of the largest players on the web such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix are openly against the bill and candidly support Net Neutrality.
The corporations lobbying for the change in Net Neutrality are spending millions of dollars to try and get the bill passed, whilst the rest of us who will be affected by the slow lane simply don’t have the money to influence the US Senate! As such, notable individuals, groups and companies from around the world are preparing to combine their resources into lobbying against the bill.
In an effort to drive record numbers of emails and calls to US lawmakers to prevent this bill from passing, and to raise awareness of the situation around the world, hundreds of sites will be participating in what’s being called “The Internet Slowdown”. This is a combined effort by organisations such as Wikipedia, Mozilla, WordPress, Vimeo, KickStarter and many others to add simple loading graphics and messages to their sites indicating “this is what the web could be like if we do not defend net neutrality”. The campaign is purely intended to increase recognition and make US citizens aware of the consequences of this bill. So, if on Wednesday 10th September, you see a lot of “please wait” messages – there’s nothing to be concerned about!