A new Chrome extension can show you what the internet would look like if Ajit Pai’s FCC manages to kill off net neutrality, and it’s incredibly frustrating.
The “Removal of Net Neutrality Simulator” is a Google Chrome plugin designed to simulate the amount of control an internet service provider would have over your browsing if the government removes Title II regulations. The latest version came out on Tuesday, and honestly, you should not install it, because it makes performing even simple tasks like checking your email an annoying, slow, tedious mess. Even the extension’s programmer, Benjamin Sherman, agrees. His favorite review of the program is just: “It sucks. I love it.”
“My hope for this extension is that it will show people outside of the tech-world what damage removing net neutrality could cause,” Sherman tells Inverse. “To the average American, the term “net neutrality” means nothing and their opinions are formed only from what they read about it. By actually demonstrating a potential Internet without net neutrality, this extension allows anyone to see the impact of supporting [net neutrality’s] removal.”
It does the same thing for a ton of other sites: YouTube tells you to go to Vimeo instead, Facebook and Reddit tell you to use Myspace, Wikipedia is incredibly slow and shows you this popup:
Sherman has a full list of all the sites and where they try to redirect to on his GitHub. Here’s my favorite section, though (censored sites on the right, sponsored site on the left):
It’s worth noting that none of the “sponsored” sites actually sponsored the app, they were just chosen for maximum frustration. Once again, don’t download this app if you’re expecting it to be fun. It’s not, and I had to delete it from my computer so I could get Gmail to work properly to send Sherman an email (I’ll update the story if he gets back). It is a great demonstration of exactly what level of control the big cable lobby wants to have over the internet. While the Republican-led FCC wants you to think that ditching net neutrality will lead to a free-market, open internet, in many communities with only one internet provider the cable companies would have total freedom to suck every last drop of ad revenue and data from their customers, squeezing out competitors with throttled speeds and banned sites. User reviews show that yep, that’s totally going to suck.
Sherman said about 100 people downloaded the app on Monday, when he first released it, and another 300 or so downloaded it on Tuesday, so it’s slowly picking up steam. He said he hasn’t sent it to any members of Congress yet, which might be a good idea if the Republican-controlled House and Senate continue to back Pai’s plan to kill net neutrality.
Fortunately, there’s still hope that Net Neutrality can rise again. The policy has held up in court challenges twice, and online activists are pretty confident they can win again if it comes down to it. But if you know anyone who’s on the fence about it, just tell them to download this extension.