Against Me!, Tom Morello warn congress about killing net neutrality
Net neutrality’s day of reckoning is fast approaching, and musicians of all persuasions – pop, rock, rap – are making noise about Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s intentions to quash Obama-era internet equality rules.
The decision will be made by the FCC’s five commissioners in a vote on Dec. 14. Three are Republicans (including Pai), two are Democrats, and they almost always vote along party lines.
As the vote looms, some 150 musicians signed an open letter to Congress underscoring a salient point that affects anyone who listens to music, or generally appreciates art:
“Without net neutrality, there will be less awesome art. Period.”
The letter was posted on Fight for the Future’s site, an organization that envisions “a world where everyone can access the internet affordably, free of interference or censorship and with full privacy.”
These musicians – which include DJ Rachel Green, R.E.M pop-rocker Michael Stripe, jazz-jamster Charlie Hunter, and the incendiary punk band Downtown Boys – say that current FCC rules (specifically called Title ll) will keep the country’s dominant internet providers from promoting or deciding what information is available on the web.
“Title II guarantees net neutrality and prevents powerful telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from deciding what art, as well as what news, is easily accessible online.”
A repeal these rules, they argue, would allow the nation’s telecom giants — which like any smart businesses prioritizes profits — to charge internet users more to access certain content. With the Obama-era rules in places, telecoms are not allowed to do this.
If the FCC votes to gut these protections it will explicitly allow Internet providers to charge extra fees that amount to a tax on the entire creative economy. A few corporations will have control over what you see and hear, while independent and up-and-coming artists’ ability to make a living will be devastated.
FCC Chairmen Pai, however, argues differently. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published in November, Pai says these Obama-era net neutrality rules are “heavy-handed” regulations that in the last two years have “failed consumers and businesses alike,” causing telecoms to drop investments in the broadband networks that make high-speed internet available to all Americans.
Without burdensome net neutrality rules, says Pai, “the FCC simply would require internet service providers to be transparent so that consumers can buy the plan that’s best for them.”
But as Mashable‘s Jason Abbruzzese writes, this comes down to “a handshake agreement,” asking the American public to trust massive, profit-motivated corporations to offer plans that Americans want.
Musicians and social iconoclasts – like Tom Morello – certainly aren’t a crowd that necessarily likes “rules” and government intrusion. But in the case of net neutrality, their letter underscores the belief that these rules are important in 21st-century internet culture, where much art – notably music – lives on the web, and shouldn’t be subjected to corporate notions of good faith.
In short, these musicians say that a level, equal internet playing field doesn’t inhibit any artist’s work from being promoted, dismissed or made difficult to experience by any telecom:
“The open Internet lets artists reach each other and audiences across the world in unprecedented ways. We are able to collaborate, learn, improve our worlds, participate in our society, and bring the things we love to people who are moved by them.”