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Archive for December, 2010

Why Audiences Need Net Neutrality

The WGAE represents content creators – people who write programs for the internet and other digital distribution systems (e.g., to mobile devices). We have argued in favor of Net Neutrality because our members want the opportunity to reach audiences directly, without major studios and other large corporations deciding what to distribute. But what about the audience? The public? Why should they care about Net Neutrality ?

For the same reason: the internet provides an unprecedented opportunity for people to experience the widest possible range of programming.

Not just shows that make money for networks and studios. Programming made by independent creators – indie films, off-beat comedies, short-form mysteries, programs that address important niche audiences who aren’t well-served by the current media conglomerates. Programming that presents unique viewpoints on important public issues such as race, sexuality, immigration, the economy.

If Net Neutrality fails, if a handful of large corporations effectively decide what people watch on the internet, these independent voices will not be heard. The culture and the nation will be the poorer for it.

There is an important aspect to the Net Neutrality debate that people should keep in mind: “paid prioritization”. This would permit Internet Service Providers to set up channels where content flows faster and with better quality. People are far more likely to watch programs on those fast lanes, rather than waiting for pokey downloads and suffering through images and sounds that stutter or freeze. Net Neutrality must apply to the entire internet. And that includes wireless digital distribution as well as wired.

With an FCC vote scheduled for December 21st , the future of Net Neutrality is uncertain. If the FCC chooses to abandon the principles of Net Neutrality an even stronger social movement will be needed to find other ways of protecting the open internet, be they legislative or otherwise.

It’s time for Net Neutrality advocates to redouble our efforts to court web video watchers, indie film fans and people who love web comedy sites to take action. These are the people who rely on the unbridled content of the open internet.

And it’s not just fanboys/girls who are tuning in. In fact, over 70% of internet users world-wide watch online video (A Global Nielsen Consumer Report). If even a fraction of those viewers understood what was at stake in terms of entertainment value alone, we’d be in a better position to win this fight.

The WGAE is not the first group to take the Net Neutrality campaign to YouTube, but please watch our new PSA by member Axel Giminez. He is one of the independent creators who depend on an open internet. I don’t want to imagine a world without stop-motion-animated absurdist videos and I hope you don’t either (watch the video)! Please join us in sending a message to the President by visiting WGAEast.org/SaveTheInternet. Let him know that viewers want him to act to preserve REAL Net Neutrality .