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Everything You Need To Know About Today's Online Protest To Protect Net Neutrality

by Elise Favis on Jul 12, 2017 at 09:00 AM

Your web browsing may slow to a crawl when visiting certain sites. Images may appear broken (or take longer to load, like Reddit's logo), and video streaming might result in a lot of buffering. What's going on? Hundreds of tech websites are participating in a "Day of Action" protest today, against the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) call to repeal net neutrality laws.

It's a complex but important topic that could change how you browse the internet and how much of your browsing data is given to internet service providers (ISPs). Today, websites are simulating a future that moves away from the free, open, worldwide web we know today, to show the public what that would be like. Here's everything you need to know, who is involved, and how you can participate.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is a belief that internet service providers, as well as governments, should not discriminate when it comes to what data is available to users. It's a principle that keeps the internet on an equal footing, and revolves around how much control is given to ISPs in terms of how you access data. If net neutrality regulations did not exist, ISPs could create "internet fast lanes" on certain sites that pay more, while throttling traffic or limiting bandwidth on others. This could push users to view websites that are favorable or lucrative to ISPs, and consumers could be charged to access data that was once free.

What is being protested, and why is it important?

In 2015, the FCC enforced new net neutrality rules that classified internet service as a Title II utility. This means ISPs are currently labelled as "common carriers," and categorized similarly to telephones, water, gas, and other living expenses. The FCC put in place laws that would restrict ISPs from blocking or limiting a user's access to internet data, such as slowing down traffic to discourage them from visiting specific sites.

This January, an avid opponent of net neutrality, Ajit Pai, became the newly appointed chairman of the FCC. From his direction, the FCC voted in favor of re-examining those rules set in place in 2015 and to potentially lift them. This means rolling back net neutrality, and relinquishing control to ISPs in ways that are deemed profitable for companies, but not necessarily favorable for users. With a conservative majority, the FCC's voting commission has decided to end the 2015 regulations.

Pai in particular takes issue with those 2015 laws because of economic concerns and that it could disincentivize companies from "wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas," he tells PBS

Organizers of today's Day of Action hope to garner enough attention and make enough noise to have the FCC reconsider this policy change, so that the internet can remain as open as it is today and leave those 2015 laws in place. Large tech companies are voicing their opposition to make the matter known, following in the footsteps of mainstream voices that have already spoken out, such as comedian John Oliver.

Net neutrality is important because it is what has helped the internet thrive through openness and innovation, without ISPs controlling how you browse or access information.

Who is participating?

Cable and telecom companies such as Verizon and Comcast support the roll back on net neutrality regulations, whereas tech companies are making a stand in opposition today. With hundreds of tech corporations in protest, this could be one of the largest internet protests in history. Some of the biggest corporations involved include Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, Imgur, Reddit, and more. These popular sites may run slower or be filled with banners, images, and messages that voice their opposition. 

What is Game Informer's stance?

We at Game Informer believe that net neutrality is an important principle that should be protected, particularly for gamers who rely on strong download speeds and connections for multiplayer or other online gaming experiences. Net neutrality is what has kept the internet as innovative as it is, giving users freedom to browse the web as they see fit, without ISPs strongly controlling access. Today, we are standing with other tech websites that hope to persuade the FCC to reconsider repealing 2015's net neutrality regulations.

How do you get involved?

A multitude of ways exist for anyone to participate in this protest. You can join an email chain from the organizers or read more about the cause by heading here. You can download images, banners, and more that you can spread on social media, or wherever you see fit. The FCC also has a public forum that is open for new comments until July 17 (click the express link). While the board may not necessarily make a decision from those comments, an overwhelming amount of them in favor of net neutrality could challenge the FCC to reconsider.