WGAE, IFTA Warn About Dangers in Verizon-Google Net Neutrality Plan

Hollywood guild and independent film and TV producers warn that pact will impact the way users consume content

A Hollywood guild and independent film and TV producers separately expressed concern Tuesday about a proposal that would apply net neutrality conditions to most wired broadband Internet connections but apply far lighter approach to mobile web connections.

In comments to the Federal Communications Commission, the Writers Guild of America East said that the proposal offered by Google and Verizon, among others, could create serious harm.

It also questioned the proposal’s suggestion that net neutrality not apply to so-called "managed" or specialized services — including those delivered through wired connections. Verizon officials have pointed to delivery of first-run movies over the internet using faster speeds and better quality as one possible managed service.

“This is nothing more than sleight-of-hand — avoiding open internet principles by declaring a major portion of the internet to be ‘not the internet,’” said WGAE’s filing, comparing the move to taking part of the nation’s highways and declaring them open to everyone except when they are private.

“Permitting broadband providers to discriminate amongst content, to decide which programs get priority distribution would transform the open architecture of the internet into a slightly upgraded version of today’s television and film industry,” the guild said.

WGAE warned that in that universe, “decisions about what people watch would be made by a small group of conglomerates which exist to make a profit and not to enhance our culture or educate our public.”

The Independent Film & Television Alliance also filed comments, saying that the internet “offers tremendous promise” as a method of distributions for artists, but that the only way to ensure the promise is fulfilled is full net neutrality.

“Independent content providers are concerned that without proper regulation and oversight, such an open and robust internet will be displaced by privately controlled broadband networks, exempt from anticompetitive safeguards,” said its filing.

The group told the FCC that media consolidation has already limited opportunities for independent content. “The internet must not become a similar, segregated marketplace.”

The FCC asked for comments on the proposals when it delayed its vote on whether to reclassify internet connections as phone services, a move that would be necessary to impose net neutrality.

In a separate filing Tuesday, AFTRA, SAG, the Directors Guild of America, and IATSE told the FCC that whatever it does, the agency should ensure that any net neutrality like conditions apply only to distribution of legal content and not to pirated content.