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syracuse.com

Visitors to sites across the web on found themselves face-to-face with loading icon after loading icon, yet not waiting a second more than usual for the pages to load.

Sept. 10 stood as the date for Internet Slowdown Day, an online protest against proposed anti-Net Neutrality rules. Sites participating displayed messages as to why an end to Net Neutrality is dangerous, and featured the iconic “spinning wheel of death”: loading icons.

“Cable companies want to slow down (and break!) your favorite sites, for profit,” a representative on BattlefortheNet, the host site of the protest, said. “To fight back, let’s cover the web with symbolic “loading” icons, to remind everyone what an Internet without net neutrality would look like, and drive record numbers of emails and calls to lawmakers.”

Popular sites such as Tumblr, Vimeo, Netflix, Reddit, Wikia, Kickstarter and Foursquare all participated in the protest.

“They were telling me [government official’s] phone numbers and asking me to tell them not to pass something that would create a slow internet,” freshman Alex Herrera said.

The protest aimed to bring light to the ongoing debate over Net Neutrality; in recent years, internet service providers, or ISPs, have aimed to gain a tighter hold on the internet in hopes of selling access to certain sites to make a bigger profit. Supporters of Net Neutrality have compared the proposal to Cable TV: to get certain channels, watchers have to pay extra. This, applied to the internet, would mean that ISPs would hold the power to have internet users pay extra for access to everyday sites like Youtube, Facebook, or Hulu.

“Without an open internet, big corporations would have tight control over how we access websites and services,” a representative on theopeninter.net said.

Sites got the message out by pushing those who viewed the message to action.

“Stop internet slow lanes from ruining everything,” a banner across the top of popular blogging website Tumblr read along with multiple loading icons across the site. “Today’s the day. The day you help save the internet from being ruined.”

Other sites provided phone numbers that would connect those who called to US government officials; from there, they could state their comments on the debate with their local congressperson.

“Join us in supporting net neutrality by asking your congressperson to oppose the FCC’s proposal,” video-sharing site Vimeo’s homepage read the day of Sept. 10. “You’ll then be connected to one of your senators to tell him or her you want net neutrality.”

The sheer number of sites that participated on Internet Slowdown Day, nearly 10,000, had quite the impact. 304,993 calls in total were made. “Incredible work, everyone. These numbers are huge,” the Tumblr staff said in congratulations to their users in the day after the protest.

There are plenty of arguments against net neutrality, as well: it gives the government additional control over the internet, it brings up issues with internet users’ privacy, and it may not be the freedom activists are looking for.

But what about Parkway? “It is tough to predict how an end to net neutrality will impact Parkway,” Jason Rooks, Parkway’s Director of Technology and Innovation said. “Parkway has a large number of online services that are hosted both internally, like Infinite Campus and externally, like Edline.”

Rooks anticipates an end to net neutrality could lead to multiple negative impacts in the district.

“The costs associated with delivering those resources may go up,” Rooks said. “Or we may see decreased speed or access to some of online resources because our vendors do not want to pay higher fees for faster speeds.”

A loss of net neutrality could also impact how students use technology in the classroom. Students could no longer as easily use the internet as a resource for research.

“You will need to ask when researching a topic, are you getting all the information available or just the information that had enough funding to be delivered to you?” Rooks said. “If net neutrality came to end, I think it could negatively impact the diversity of information students have access to online.”

And debates over the internet are not due to stop any time soon; making decisions about such a vast network of sites and users is not at all simple.

“Bandwidth is a finite resource. Who controls this resource, who has access to it, and at what cost, are difficult questions to answer,” Rooks said.