Court Decision to Invalidate Net Neutrality Rules Will Impact Artists (Huff Post)

Net neutrality cartoonA couple of weeks ago, a federal appeals court invalidated the Federal Communications Commission network neutrality or open internet rules. The rules prevented internet service providers from prioritizing certain applications or content, or blocking access to others.

Though the court affirmed the FCC’s ability to regulate internet service providers and its option to redo the rules, the decision currently leaves both consumers and creators with no real regulatory protections. As the Writers Guild of America West noted in a statement on the decision, “The [ruling] is a blow to competition, consumers and content creators. An open Internet has already begun to offer myriad new sources for news, information and entertainment. To allow the Internet to succumb to corporate forces who seek to control what consumers can access undermines the open, democratic principles on which the Internet was founded.”

The Internet has become the critical distribution channel for artists and their work. It has opened new opportunities to reach and engage audiences, reduced the need for gatekeepers and middlemen, and established powerful new fundraising channels. These have blossomed because artists, entrepreneurs, application developers, and web designers have all been allowed to “innovate without permission” and reach the public on a level playing field.

But the loss of network neutrality rules means that cable and telephone companies are now free to pick winners and losers online. They can prioritize traffic from one company over another, limit or prohibit the use of certain applications, or cut exclusive deals with content companies, while potentially blocking access to others. These practices will make it harder and more expensive for artists and creators to reach the public.

To be sure, in the absence of net neutrality or similar protections, large Internet platforms like Facebook or Google may be able to pay for access. In that case, Youtube might load faster or not count against a subscriber’s data limit, while Vimeo could be significantly slowed or blocked altogether. The net effect will be to tie creators to a small number of large platforms, reduce the choice and leverage of independent artists relative to corporate media, and make it harder for new or marginalized voices to be heard.


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