A protester attends a net-neutrality rally in Los Angeles on July 23, 2014
Jonathan Alcorn—Reuters
By Elizabeth Barber
September 10, 2014

A group of popular websites that rely on speedy Internet service — including Netflix, Vimeo and Reddit — will launch an online protest Wednesday against controversial proposed changes to “net neutrality.”

The coalition of companies, who call themselves Team Internet, will use the spinning “still loading” symbol on banners of protest against the world of frustratingly slow Internet they say could come about if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) nixes net neutrality. Clicking on the banners will link to more information about net neutrality, the organizers say.

“We believe in the free and open Internet, with no arbitrary fees or slow lanes for sites that can’t pay,” write the organizers on their website. “If [cable companies] win, the Internet dies.”

Since May, the FCC has been weighing changes to its regulations on “net neutrality” — the 2010 rules requiring Internet service providers to treat all web traffic the same. The changes would allow cable companies to grant paying customers faster service, but ban them from slowing down, or throttling, the access of nonpaying companies. The FCC has already lost two court cases brought by cable companies who have challenged the legality of its existing net-neutrality rules.

Opponents to the changes, including much of Silicon Valley, have said that the revisions would in effect create an Internet of haves and have-nots, with paying companies zipping onto users’ screens and nonpaying ones lurching through the system.

“Consumers, not broadband gatekeepers, should pick the winners and losers on the Internet,” read a Netflix statement in the Financial Times. “Strong net neutrality rules are needed to stop Internet service providers from demanding extra fees or slowing delivery of content to consumers who already have paid for Internet access.”

Tim Karr, senior director of strategy at Free Press, one of the organizers of the protest, told the Wall Street Journal that the goal of the protest is to marshal public opposition to the FCC’s proposed changes and encourage people to reach out to the FCC and Congress. The FCC has already received more than 1.2 million comments criticizing the proposed revisions.

Other participants in the protest include Kickstarter, Foursquare, Urban Dictionary, Upworthy, Grooveshark and Mozilla, among others. Any Internet user with a website can post the protest banner or change their social-media avatars to the “spinning wheel of death.”

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