- Websites will participate in Internet Slowdown Day on Wednesday
- Demonstration is meant to urge government to keep Web open and free
- Reddit, Vimeo and Etsy among those participating
- Sites won't actually slow down, but warn that they could
Your Internet won't be any slower than usual on Wednesday, but it might look like it is.
Top sites on the Internet, including Netflix and Reddit, will be displaying a constant "loading" symbol -- the so-called "loading pinwheel" or, alternately, the Spinning Wheel of Death.
It's part of a protest called "Internet Slowdown Day," a push against the U.S. government's support for so-called Internet fast lanes.
The Federal Communications Commission in May proposed allowing broadband providers to charge companies like Amazon and Netflix for prioritized access to consumers. The proposal is now open for public comment and could be changed before a final vote to implement it.
As part of the Internet Slowdown Day protest, the websites will also include a prompt to contact your lawmakers about the FCC proposal.
"It's always hard to explain complicated topics to a lot of people, and the FCC made it harder by trying to fool the public into thinking their proposal was real net neutrality, when it was actually what the cable and phone lobbyists always asked for," said organizer David Segal, executive director of civil liberties group Demand Progress and a former Rhode Island state representative.
Net neutrality refers to the principle that high-speed Internet providers should treat all types of Web content equally, which led to a set of rules the FCC approved in 2010, designed to keep the companies that hold the keys to the Web from playing favorites.
Sites including Netflix, Reddit, Vimeo, Etsy, Upworthy and Digg plan to take part in this week's demonstration, which will last from midnight Wednesday to midnight Thursday.
Broadband Internet providers, many of them cable companies, argue that as businesses providing a service, they have a right to charge websites. Netflix accounts for around a third of data consumption online during peak hours, and Internet providers say the company should therefore help foot the bill for delivery.
But those fees would be easier to absorb for the Web's biggest, and richest, sites, activists say. Smaller, less profitable sites would have a tough time competing.
Segal said altering the FCC plan is an uphill battle, but he's optimistic.
"We can never ever underestimate the power of cable and phone companies in D.C., but we definitely have a shot of winning," he said. "We have the momentum and are building impressive support in the public, industry, and policymakers."