Lesson one in How to Drive Your Technology Enemies Crazy: downgrade their Internet to turtle-like, dial-up speeds.
A Portland, Oregon-based software developer came up with the protest against the Federal Communication Commission's proposed net neutrality rules.
"Various companies and organizations have added code to their websites that kicks in whenever there’s a visit from someone who works at the FCC," Wired reported. "While everyone else is enjoying these websites at ordinary broadband speeds, this code ensures that FCC staffers view them at dial-up speeds reminiscent of the 1990s."
Kyle Drake -- the author of the unique protest -- posted the code to his website May 9, saying he would skew the FCC’s bandwidth until the commission meets his $1,000 per year “Ferengi plan” demands -- a reference all Trekkies will appreciate (the Ferengis were known to be obsessed with trade and had a penchant for swindling others into unfair deals).
"(This) is a special FCC-only plan that costs $1000 per year, and removes the 28.8kbps modem throttle to the FCC," Drake says in his blog. "We will happily take Credit Cards, Bitcoin, and Dogecoin from crooked FCC executives that probably have plenty of money from bribes."
Drake's code can't really slow the FCC’s Internet speeds, but it can serve webpages to the agency addresses much more slowly, by forcing a visitor’s IP address to be checked against a list of known FCC addresses.
Countless others web programmers are now using his code to handicap the FCC's online work, but despite the massive protest, the FCC pressed forward yesterday and proposed new rules that some say will deliver a crushing blow to the Internet as we know it.
"The FCC has voted to accept Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for a new net neutrality framework, kicking off a longer rule-making process that will conclude in the next several months," the Verge reported. "And while the new proposal has been amended from an earlier, more controversial text, it leaves open the question of Internet 'fast lanes,' an issue that many see as fundamentally undermining net neutrality."
The FCC's new rules proposal -- that builds on the 2010 Open Internet Order that was struck down earlier this year -- makes it legal for consumer Internet service providers to cut "special deals" with companies that deliver more content than others -- such as Netflix and Google -- to ensure their products (movies and videos for example) are delivered via a "fast lane" to viewers.
But to some dissenters, this arrangement starts to sound like a bad mob movie -- pay "the man" to make sure your product gets moved first to shut out the competition. For supporters of the concept, it's merely market-driven demand; companies like Amazon, for example, have long been able to pay shipping companies more money to have a 'fast lane' of their own, to be able to guarantee their products get first priority on the trucks headed to customers.
Telecom executives have argued that Internet Service Providers have the right to prioritize traffic.
"We are not sure we know what paid prioritization, or what a fast lane, is," Comcast Vice President David Cohen said Wednesday. Admitting some confusion on the language, Cohen insists the move is within legal bounds. "I believe that whatever it is, it has been completely legal for 15 or 20 years."
To get an refresher on net neutrality and what it means for users and companies, check out these two videos — the first is a every-day user understanding of how net neutrality affects access to products, and the second is Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's interpretation of the issue:
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter