FCC Employees, Is Your Internet Running Sluggish Today?

Members of US advocacy groups camp outside FCC headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 30, 2014

Members of US advocacy groups camp outside FCC headquarters in Washington, DC, on Jan. 30, 2014 Kevin Wolf/AP

Some website operators are slowing FCC staff's access to their sites in protest of potential paid Internet fast lane regulations.

Some website operators are slowing down Federal Communications Commission employees' access to their sites in protest of potential paid Internet fast lane regulations. On Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to release a proposal that would let broadband providers charge sites for bandwidth-heavy content. 

The hacktivist collective Anonymous is circulating through Twitter a file -- dubbed "How to throttle the FCC to dial up modem speeds on your site" -- that makes a specific site load at a turtle's pace for anyone using an IP address belonging to the FCC. 

For example, if Nextgov.com used the configuration, then readers of Nextgov at the FCC would have trouble accessing our stories. The instructions provide actual FCC IP ranges. (Note to FCC readers: We don’t plan to do this.)

Affiliates of Anonymous and security researchers alike call the gambit hilarious. 

The virtual sit-in at government websites is nothing new. In 2012, Anonymous wielded a similar tactic against Justice.gov to successfully kill anti-piracy legislation it condemned as censorship. That time, opponents of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, waged a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack that silenced Justice's site with bogus Web traffic. 

The FCC ploy works in reverse.  And it carries the irony of emulating what commission critics feel would be a long-term blockage of Internet traffic. 

Proponents of pay-for-play, big telecom corporations like Comcast, feel bandwidth-chomping websites are mooching off pipelines that cable and phone companies spent billions of dollars to build. They want the Netflixes of the world to subsidize some of that infrastructure by paying fees for fast speeds. 

On the other side, proponents of "net neutrality," say fast lanes disadvantage small websites and startups that can't afford to pay for priority Web access. 

Theoretically, Internet Service Providers could use the same slowdown tactic to show the FCC what life would be like without the high-speed Internet access they deliver.   

"I doubt ISPs, at least ones of significance, will do this," said John Bambenek, a cyber forensics examiner who assists the government and critical infrastructure operators. 

Meanwhile, a movement dubbed "OccupyTheFCC," is going old school to get Wheeler’s ear, "camping out day and night on the FCC's doorstep to defend net neutrality and keep the Internet free from discrimination and 'slow lanes,'" according to the campaign's website.