Websites and apps you use every day are staging an internet protest Wednesday for the net neutrality day of action.
A quick refresher. Net neutrality is the philosophy that the internet should be open and equal. So no matter who you get internet access from, your experience should be the same as everyone else. The Obama White House adopted rules that mandated this behavior, – no blocking or slowing down certain websites. But the current FCC is trying to undo those rules.
People and companies worried about this rollback say an internet provider or wireless data carrier could slow down competitors' sites or services, or block things they don't want you to see. So hypothetically if you get Comcast internet and they introduce a streaming service, maybe Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime suddenly don't play in HD anymore.
Here are five key points that explain how net neutrality has turned into such a big deal.
1. It's got Pinterest and Pornhub fighting for the same thing
There's a long list of enormous internet companies, apps and sites that are taking part in the July 12 "Day of Action to save Net Neutrality" campaign. They want "strong, enforceable net neutrality rules."
That includes Etsy, Amazon, Twitter, Netflix (though they waffled), SoundCloud, Pornhub (we're not judging), Pinterest, Airbnb, Spotify, Reddit, Google, Funny or Die ... it's lengthy. And a lot of these sites are competing for traffic. It's not often they band together publicly like this.
At a lot of those sites today, you'll see net neutrality messages – some are just "learn more" links, others have pop-ups that show you what it could look like if net neutrality rules are undone and ISPs can block or slow down certain sites. There's an imgur gallery showing some of them.
2. Millions of comments have been sent in
When the FCC is considering rules changes, anyone can file a comment online, explaining whether they support or oppose the change.
This net neutrality rollback is called Restoring Internet Freedom – and in the past 30 days it's gotten more than 1.05 million comments. (The second most-active case? It has 1,805 comments.) In total, the net neutrality proposal has more than 6 million comments.
There have been some legitimacy questions on some of these comments, particularly with a pro-rollback comment that is posted, word-for-word, over and over. It appears to be the work of a bot and not actual humans. (Here's one of the submissions.)
3. People of both parties support net neutrality rules
Polls have found people who are both Democrats and Republicans support having net neutrality rules in place.
This Morning Consult poll showed 61 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans in favor. And a Freedman Consulting survey found the FCC's rules had support from 80 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and 73 percent of Republicans.
This doesn't always carry over to actual politicians. Here in Minnesota, DFL Sen. Al Franken has been one of the voices shouting about the importance of net neutrality. Many of his Democratic colleagues have said the same thing.
Many Republicans have argued the FCC's rules need to go away, arguing it's stifling the internet's growth.
4. Internet providers promise they won't block or slow down sites
Some of the large cable companies have promised they won't do any of this "throttling" (the term for making things load slower) or blocking.
"An open internet means that we do not block, throttle or otherwise impair your online activity. We firmly stand by that commitment because it is good for our customers and good for our business," a public ad signed by 18 providers in May said.
Consumerist asked the companies to back that up, and put it in writing when customers sign contracts (meaning the FCC could later enforce a broken contract). None took them up on the offer.
So what do the internet providers have a problem with, exactly? It's the regulations that come with the current net neutrality rules,NPR explains. The way they're classified means they're bound by stricter telecommunication rules.
Free Press meanwhile has a list of times internet service providers behaved exactly the way they promise they won't – AT&T disabling FaceTime on iPhones unless customers paid more; Comcast blocking peer-to-peer file-sharing services; MetroPCS blocking all streaming video over its 4G service except for YouTube; the list continues.
5. If you feel strongly, you can say something
The image just above is one that circulates on Reddit, showing a hypothetical internet provider with the ability to charge more for access to different services.
The FCC is currently taking comments on the rollback proposal, and could take an official vote to undo the rules later this year. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is leading the charge, but one of the two others who would vote, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, is against nixing the rules.