TODAY WE at the INQUIRER stand shoulder to shoulder (or in some cases dinkle) with our brothers and sisters across the internet in supporting the International Day of Action in support of net neutrality.
Websites and services large and small are coming together to show solidarity against plans by the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which look to change the status of internet traffic to allow it to be prioritised into "fast lanes" and "slow lanes".
If all this sounds familiar, it's because we've been here before. We revelled in reporting back in 2015 at how the self-same FCC under then-President Obama had succeeded in protecting net neutrality - we thought for all time. Well actually, we didn't, we had a feeling this was gonna kick off again.
But under a Republican government, things change, and President Trump has appointed Ajit Pai as the Chairman of the FCC, a man who has promised to, in his own words put a "weed-whacker" to legislation protecting the concept that every byte should be treated equally and to tear apart net neutrality.
Today, 12 July 2017, with just a few weeks until the FCC begins the process of "weed-whacking", the internet is coming together to show the world why we think it's a bad idea, an irresponsible idea and how it will affect you. And by you, we mean you, whether you're Kevin in your Mum's basement in Croydon or Donald II in your suspiciously Faberge Egg covered Penthouse in Washington.
So what exactly is net neutrality?
Quite simply, the idea that every piece of data, from your Twitter status to a Netflix stream to Dow Jones financial data, be treated equally and pass through networks and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with the same priority.
Sounds great. What's the alternative?
The alternative would be that big businesses could use their coffers to pay extra to have their data be treated with priority. This would be the "fast lanes" we mentioned.
But don't big companies have "fast lanes" already?
No. Don't confuse "faster speeds" with "higher priority". If you buy a 1Gbps pipe, your data will get to where it's going faster from the ISP - but the data travelling across the internet all travels at the same speed. A "fast lane" would mean the ISP would make sure your data gets handled with priority.
So the big companies want to be able to offer faster service?
No! Not at all! In fact, as you'll see, the biggest companies in the world are among those who are joining today's action.
So who actually wants this then?
Mainly the ISPs. Because the ISPs then get to sell that fast access.
So why does the government have so much interest in what the ISPs want?
Gah. This one is complicated. But if you do a bit of Googling of the members of the FCC and the present and former members of ISPs, you'll have your answer, or at least part of it.
This is all really complicated. Have any failed UK comedians gone on to have a huge career in the US, and made a brilliant and succinct explanation?
Yes. John Oliver did. More than once We've embedded two of those pieces to the bottom of this page. Note though that we're now into a new battle from either of these two being discussed - we've included these as it's the same sh*t, different day, well explained.
OK. Good. Let's move on then. What happens if net neutrality dies?
Well. OK. That's another huge question. But let's take one example. Imagine we start a streaming media company called INQcrispTube. It's like Netflix but it specialises in pictures of crisps and other potato based snacks in suggestive poses.
Now you're talking.
OK. Well, say that we were just starting out. If we wanted to compete with the big boys (PornCrisp, xMonsterMunch etc) we'd need to find enough money not only for our start up costs, but to fund the cost of a fast lane so we could compete with those guys, who have already (against their will) been forced to pay for a fast lane to keep their quality of service.
In other words. The little guy gets squished. The big guys get smaller and the ISPs get richer.
Now you're getting it.
Wow. This sounds really bad. But I'm not in the US. What do I care?
Two reasons, my friend. The first is that with so many of the biggest companies having servers in the US, the knock-on effect will be felt across the ruddy world.
The second is that, like a pop-up tent on the last day of a festival, once it's out of cover, it's almost impossible to put back in. And once it's out there, other governments start to get ideas. The EU is getting twitchy on the subject, and of course, once the UK is out of the EU, all bets are off anyway. So never say "it couldn't happen here" because not only could it, it probably would and will, and in a way, if it happens in America, it already has.
Wow. OK. So how would this affect me then?
Look around the internet today. We haven't been able to recreate it on our site, because we are but scribes and cannot go into the inner sanctum of the websites workings, but you only have to look at a site like Pornhub (and don't say you don't). If you hop over there today, you'll see the videos have had artificial buffers put in. And no, that's not a fetish.
Page loading times will take longer. Streaming will glitch. It'll just be a ruddy mess. Or of course, the companies will pay the dirty penny of the ISP and pass that extra cost on to you. And isn't your interweb bill expensive enough?
So who is taking part in this protest?
Who isn't? There's Mozilla, Github, Reddit, EFF, Etsy, Vimeo, Netflix, Pornhub, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter, Stack Overflow. I mean we could go on.
OK. You've got me. What can I do to help?
Lobby the FCC. If you've lobbied them, lobby them again. Tell other people to lobby them. Tweet it. Facebook it. Make little badges and Etsy them. Seriously get out there and do it. All the materials you need are here: https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12/
And just to make it absolutely clear - we have days to save the internet. That's the bottom line. And we can't just build a new one, it's kind of a one time thing. So don't think about it tomorrow - this is Zero Day. Action Time NOW. The future staff of INQCrispTube thank you.
Am I really your friend? You said I was your friend.
Of course you are. You're all our friends.
Yeah, alright, don't get mushy on us. There's a war on. µ
Despite local protests
Remember crime does not pay people
You're crap but we couldn't have done it without you