Today Is the Internet Slowdown

Last week a few of us from Access attended the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul. The slate of topics covered was immense — from surveillance to data retention to ICT for development to internet governance itself. 

But perhaps the biggest spectre looming over the event was net neutrality.  On the second day of the conference, there were at least four sessions or meetings relating to the subject. There was a panel on zero-rating services (I was on that one); a session exploring the annual report from the Dynamic Coalition on net neutrality; and a marathon two-and-a-half hour main session in which government officials, corporate representatives, and a handful of civil society members — including Access’ own Ephraim Kenyanito — discussed the nature of net neutrality in the developing world and compared global attempts to protect the principle through laws and regulation. 

Among many other impressions, it was clear that we are in the thick of a worldwide fight to protect internet users from discrimination and to ensure that the internet remains open for generations to come. 

Net Neutrality on the move around the world

(Click the image to download the map)

This week, the fight takes focus in the United States. Earlier this year, the Federal Communication Commission introduced proposed rules that, it claims, would restrict telcos from discriminating against online content, services, and applications, or from prioritizing the services of one company over those of another.  

If only the FCC’s rules would actually accomplish this. In reality, the agency’s proposal would open the door to widespread discrimination online, and would allow telcos to create a two-tiered internet — fast lanes for those who can pay, slow lanes for everyone else.  

In response, Access joined thousands of civil society organizations and companies — and millions of everyday internet users — in calling for the FCC to abandon this plan, and to reclassify U.S. broadband services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a move that would enable the agency to properly treat telcos as common carriers, and which would in turn empower it to enact strong net neutrality protections. 

The final deadline for formal public comment on the issue is this Monday, September 15. So a broad coalition of groups and companies has united to name today, Sept. 10, the “Internet Slowdown” — a day of action in which sites around the web are covered in symbolic “loading” icons to remind everyone of what an internet without net neutrality would look like.  

Access is proud to participate in the action, and we’ve put the “slowdown” widget on our site to show our support. Please click on it to learn more about the Battle for the Net campaign. 

As the events unfold this week in the U.S., net neutrality rules or regulations are being considered through Latin America, in the European Union, and beyond. Meanwhile, digital rights advocates in every region of the world are uniting in support of this fundamental concept that underpins free expression online (Access is working with a coalition of countries to develop a common definition for net neutrality, which we plan to launch later this month). 

From Chile to the Netherlands, both of which have passed net neutrality laws, and from Sudan to Pakistan, where citizens are still getting basic connectivity, the expression of fundamental rights depends on access to an open, non-discriminatory internet. Activists in the U.S. will spend the next week protesting the FCC’s weak proposal; we’ll be supporting the fight in every corner of the world.