This week and today Wednesday 12 July especially, some of the internet’s most popular websites will look quite different, as they participate in a day of action to oppose changes to US rules which govern net neutrality.
More than 180 companies including Amazon, Twitter, Etsy, OkCupid, and Vimeo, along with advocacy groups such as the ACLU, Change.org, and Greenpeace, will join the protest and urge their users and followers to do the same.
What is Net Neutrality?
Net neutrality is the principle that an internet service provider (ISP) should give consumers equal access to all legal content regardless of its source.
Why is it an issue now?
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the support of the Obama administration introduced new net neutrality regulations in 2015, after an extensive campaign by activist groups and tech companies. Those rules put ISPs in the same category as other telecommunication companies.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and large telecom companies, such as Verizon and Comcast, want to relax net neutrality rules. Some claim that an unregulated internet will allow for more competition in the marketplace, as well as oversight of privacy and security measures.
FCC commissioners voted to start the process to end net neutrality rules in May, and the commission is now conducting a public consultation on the issue. Americans have until the end of August to comment on the plans.
Why this protest matters: The July 12 protest is projected to be one of the largest digital protests ever planned, with more than 50,000 people, sites, and organizations participating. If successful, it would be reminiscent of a 2012 blackout for freedom of speech on the internet to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act, and an internet slowdown in 2014 to demand discussions about net neutrality.