Internet titans protest ‘fast lanes’ in favor of Net neutrality

Websites, including Netflix, brandished pinwheel icons Wednesday to protest what they called a pending Internet slowdown

Streaming television titan Netflix is among the dozens of websites displaying a dreaded spinning wheel icon Wednesday to rally support for blocking Internet "fast lanes."

It's part of a massive Internet Slowdown protest — joined by dozens of top Internet firms and advocacy groups, including WordPress and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The spinning symbols — usually used to denote a slow-loading page — will not actually slow website performance, but they will link to, where there are ways to take action to defend Net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering rules that would determine how Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast and Verizon manage Web traffic on their networks.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that would allow ISPs to charge content companies to ensure their websites or applications load smoothly and quickly, as long as such deals are deemed "commercially reasonable."

The FCC has been adamant that it remains committed to Net neutrality and is trying to create rules that can withstand legal scrutiny. But Netflix, in a letter to lawmakers posted on its website Wednesday, contended that “the FCC’s proposed rules would be a significant departure from how the Internet currently works, limiting the economic and expressive opportunity it provides.”

"The free and open Internet has been central to the economy and to global free expression," said Paul Sieminski, general counsel of Automattic, the Web development firm that runs blogging service WordPress.

Online marketing giant Etsy also weighed in, saying that it “opposes the FCC’s proposed rule to let big companies pay for faster access to consumers, leaving small independent businesses in the Internet slow lane.” The company also called on patrons to contact their legislators.

The FCC is collecting public comment on the proposed rules until Sept. 15 and will hold several public workshops on various aspects of the regulations in the following weeks.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will hold a hearing on the issue of Net neutrality on Sept. 17.

Regulating Internet providers more like public utilities could hurt the Internet and the U.S. economy, more than two dozen network technology and equipment makers have told U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

In a letter published on Tuesday, 33 companies — including Cisco, Intel and IBM — joined the growing number of citizens, activists, lawmakers and other companies debating how the U.S. government should regulate ISPs.

Two prior attempts, the most recent in 2010, by the FCC to hold broadband service providers to standards were stymied by U.S. District Court decisions that such moves were outside the agency's scope of authority.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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FCC, Internet, Netflix

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