Amazon, Reddit, Etsy plan to protest for net neutrality

Net neutrality advocates 'rickroll' FCC chairman
Net neutrality advocates 'rickroll' FCC chairman

Top tech companies are joining a protest for the future of the Internet.

Amazon (AMZN), Etsy (ETSY), Reddit and Kickstarter are part of a coalition of about 50 companies and advocacy groups that are planning an "Internet-wide day of action" to defend net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission voted last month to move forward with a proposal to roll back net neutrality protections put in place during the Obama administration. The rules are intended to prevent Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites.

The online demonstration is scheduled for July 12, less than a week before the deadline for the public to submit an initial round of comments on the controversial proposal.

The tech companies will "display a prominent message" on their websites and "give their audience an opportunity to easily contact the FCC and Congress," according to Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, one of the groups behind the effort.

"It will be a day where everyone can come together and use the power of this technology to defend it," she told CNNTech.

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The plan is modeled after online protests like 2014's Internet Slowdown Day, which saw Netflix (NFLX), Reddit and others display a long "loading" symbol on their websites to promote net neutrality. The goal was to highlight the risks of giving Internet providers too much power and direct visitors to take action.

Netflix is notably absent from the list of companies planning to participate in this latest online protest. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said at a tech conference last week that net neutrality is "not our primary battle at this point."

Greer says she expects a larger number of "household names" to sign on to the protest in the next few weeks. The Internet Association, a trade group representing companies like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and Amazon, has already pushed back against the FCC's proposed changes.

However, there have been doubts about the potential effectiveness of protests this time around.

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman appointed by President Trump, has been an outspoken critic of the net neutrality rules since they were approved in 2015. Republicans control both houses of Congress. And Trump has previously surrounded himself with advisers who oppose net neutrality.

The hope among net neutrality advocates is that public outrage could shift the scales, according to Gigi Sohn, a counselor to former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

"If this starts to become a political liability for Republicans," Sohn told CNN Tech last month, "they might just whisper to [Pai]: 'It's not worth it.'"

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