TV Writers: Killing Net Neutrality Will Make the Internet Too Much Like Our Industry

As public pressure on the FCC continues to mount, the Writers Guild of America, West cautions: Don’t be like cable television.

BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 31: A visitor tries out an HP Spectre XT laptop computer featuring an Intel Ultrabook processor at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) 2012 consumer electronics trade fair on August 31, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. IFA 2012 is open to the public from today until September 5.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
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Dustin Volz
May 13, 2014, 12:59 p.m.

The cre­at­ive geni­uses be­hind more than 240 tele­vi­sion shows urged the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion on Tues­day to nix an agency pro­pos­al that would cre­ate dif­fer­ent speeds for dif­fer­ent web­sites on the In­ter­net.

Such “fast lanes,” the Writers Guild of Amer­ica, West cau­tions, would make the In­ter­net a place where an elite, wealthy few con­trol most of the con­tent and hike con­sumer prices — just like cable tele­vi­sion.

“If Net Neut­ral­ity is neutered, the In­ter­net will be­come like cable tele­vi­sion,” the guild wrote. “A few cor­por­ate gate­keep­ers such as Com­cast will be al­lowed to de­cide what con­tent con­sumers can ac­cess and on what terms. The danger is that block­ing, dis­crim­in­a­tion and paid pri­or­it­iz­a­tion could oc­cur.”

Such a mar­ket, the guild ar­gues, would lead to the con­sol­id­a­tion of power over the In­ter­net with­in the hands of a few mono­pol­ist­ic ser­vice pro­viders and lock out com­pet­i­tion.

“That is ex­actly what has oc­curred in our tra­di­tion­al film and tele­vi­sion busi­ness,” the let­ter reads. “After dec­ades of con­sol­id­a­tion and mer­gers, sev­en cor­por­a­tions con­trol 95% of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion and view­ing.”

FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er is back­ing new reg­u­la­tions that would let In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders — such as Com­cast, Time Warner, and Ve­r­i­zon — charge web­sites for ac­cess to so-called fast lanes that would leave web­sites un­able to pay that fee sub­ject to less­er levels of ser­vice.

Wheel­er’s rules come after a fed­er­al ap­peals court in Janu­ary struck down the ex­ist­ing basis for net neut­ral­ity. Pub­lic pres­sure has in­tens­i­fied ahead of the FCC’s Thursday vote on the pro­pos­al.

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