Yesterday (Oct. 9, 2014), President Barack Obama reaffirmed his support for real net neutrality during a question-and-answer session in Santa Monica. The president described the administration’s opposition to a “tiered” Internet, where those with deep pockets get premium access to users and everyone else is stuck in the slow lane. His remarks should send a strong signal to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is currently devising new net neutrality rules, having had its previous Open Internet Order from 2010 largely repudiated by a federal appeals court.
I made a commitment very early on that I am unequivocally committed to Net Neutrality. I think it is what has unleashed the power of the Internet, and we don’t want to lose that or clog up the pipes.
I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: that is something I’m opposed to.
My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can’t—now that he’s there—I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect that whatever final rules to emerge, to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.
The last proposal put forward by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler seemed to allow for paid prioritization of content. In response, millions of Americans from all walks of life—including musicians and other creators—have filed comments with the Commission saying that a pay-to-play Internet is a bad idea. It’s great to know that the president also sees it this way.
FMC and our artist allies understand what’s at stake. Over the years, we’ve made the case for basic rules of the road to prevent companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from picking winners and losers online. Thousands of musicians and independent labels—from superstar acts to emerging talent—are on record in support of net neutrality as part of our Rock the Net campaign, which launched in 2007. Here in 2014, the FCC can fix this once and for all by reclassifying broadband Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
Musicians know payola when we see it. Our ability to reach fans and earn a living depends on being able to take advantage of the innovations that come from an open and accessible Internet. Right now, some artists feel that the mainstream music platforms aren’t economically viable. That means that there need to be viable alternatives. Without meaningful net neutrality rules, artist-friendly platforms—and those yet to emerge—would be disadvantaged as ISPs cut deals with the big music companies for priority access to fans. We need a legitimate digital marketplace built on choice and accessibility. In other words, we need real net neutrality.
We’ll be taking a closer look at the issue in several panels and keynotes at the Future of Music Policy Summit (Oct. 27-28, Georgetown University, Washington DC). Reserve your spot now—musician scholarships are available!
photo via whitehouse.gov