Chances are that by the time you’re reading this article (assuming you’re reading it the day it goes up), you’ve seen the above image or some other sort of loading icon on at least one or two websites. The images are part of an “Internet Slowdown” protest that several popular websites are participating in to raise awareness of recently proposed US regulations that threaten net neutrality.

The regulations in question would allow companies to pay broadband providers for so-called Internet “fast lanes” that would assure their websites load faster than their competition’s websites. ISPs would be essentially throttling your speed based on what website you go to, causing one to load quickly while another loads slower than usual. The obvious problem with this is that it gives an enormous advantage to companies that have a lot of money, while smaller companies will suffer. Equal access to your favorite websites is in danger. This should be even more concerning for those who actually run small sites.

The “Internet Slowdown” is purely symbolic. None of the sites involved are actually causing their websites to load slower, but instead simply showing the loading icon as a reminder that waiting through load times isn’t very fun. Netflix was one of the first companies to jump on board the protest because their very service relies on fast, reliable broadband. Reddit, Foursquare, Mozilla, Vimeo, and WordPress are among the other companies participating.

The Internet Slowdown protest is scheduled for just today, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those icons stick around for a while. This is an extremely important issue, whether you use the Internet casually or you sit in front of your computer all day long. I encourage you to read up on the call to action and find out how you can participate. A little effort can go a long way if we’re all pitching in.

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