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Netflix and Reddit cripple sites in battle to save internet

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Campaign to retain net neutrality ramped up as major internet firms 'slow down' their websites

Dozens of websites including Netflix, Reddit, MetaFilter, Digg and Grooveshark are pretending to be super-slow today in protest against cable companies threatening to destroy the free and open internet.

The dreaded ‘spinning wheel of death’ is being plastered across 68 websites as major web companies aim to raise awareness of net neutrality. While websites won’t actually be slowed down during today’s protests, it is hoped that the messages will help raise awareness of so-called net neutrality.

Major web firms are calling on internet users to put pressure on the FCC, Congress and the White House to reject new legislation that would allow cable companies to create a two-tiered internet. Cable companies want to be able to charge websites and online services for access to faster, more reliable connections, something critics argue would create a slow lane and a fast lane. The legislation would only affect the US, but would have implications for the internet as a whole.

In the US internet providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon have all forced Netflix to pay a fee to improve streaming quality for customers. Netflix had complained that some providers were throttling streaming traffic, making its service unusable. Cable firms argued that as companies like Netflix put such a strain on their network it is only right that they pay for a ‘premium’ service.

“Cable companies are famous for high prices and poor service. Several rank as the most hated companies in America,” said the Fight for the Future organisation, which is protesting against the proposed legislation.

“Now, they’re attacking the Internet–their one competitor and our only refuge–with plans to charge websites arbitrary fees and slow to a crawl any sites that won’t pay up. If they win, the internet dies.”

If the proposed legislation is passed it could lead to the creation of a two-tiered internet. The FCC has opened a consultation period with members of the public encouraged to contribute to the debate. Consultation closes on 15 September, with a decision on the future of the internet expected before the end of the year.

If passed, net neutrality advocates say the legislation would have a huge impact on how the internet operates:

“Cable companies would have the power to discriminate against online content and applications – they could pick winners and losers, shake sites down for fees, block content for political reasons, and make it easier for Internet users to view cable content,” Fight for the Future explained.

People are encouraged to sign an open letter to US lawmakers by visiting the Battle for the Internet petition page.

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