Updated April 28, 1:30 p.m.:
The Writers Guild of America West in separate comments called net neutrality “essential to our democratic society” saying that on television “a small number of firms control what people watch.”
“While television and film distribution is controlled by a handful of powerful media conglomerates, the internet offers a medium through which anyone with a story can find an audience,” the group’s filing said. “We must ensure that internet service providers are not allowed to become gatekeepers, deciding what viewers can see by charging content providers for access.”
AFTRA, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the IATSE are joining together with their own warning to the Federal Communications Commission as the agency hears a round of new discussion over net neutrality.
The Hollywood groups’ plea: Whatever you do, don’t forget piracy.
“The jobs and livelihoods of [our workers] depend on continued financial viability of the domestic motion picture, television and music industries which are currently under attack from the growth of rampant theft of copyrighted content online,” the groups said in a joint filing today with the FCC.
The filing was among a number of comments filed Monday with the FCC, which had asked for comments on issues in “network management.”
Although an appellate court ruled the FCC doesn’t have the authority to regulate the internet as an information service, consumer groups have urged the agency to simply reclassify internet connections as phone services and proceed forward with net neutrality limits.
The Hollywood groups said they “are generally in favor” of the FCC preventing internet service providers offering favored content a faster highway to consumers’ doorstep, but they urged the FCC to make certain that any rule would only apply to legal content.
“These rules of the road would be incomplete without addressing the rampant trafficking of contraband audiovisual works, which has been liked to organized criminal enterprise and on the very internet pipeline that the commission seeks to expand,” said the filing.
It warned that “the continued unchecked growth of online theft will jeopardize our members jobs, compensation … threaten America’s global pre-eminence in audiovisual entertainments … [and] serve as a detriment to the public interests as fewer movies, television shows and albums will be made.”
Public interest groups in their comments urged the FCC to move forward on the issue of net neutrality as did the Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.
“The time for adopting rules to safeguard broadband subscribers unfettered access to the internet is now and the commission has the authority to do so,” said the filing from the computer association.
“The internet access market is in the hands of two few firms to permit the commission to cling to ‘free market’ bromides as a means for securing unfettered internet access for American consumers. Concentration and vertical integration is at the tipping point.”
Internet service providers in both comments and in blog posts questioned the FCC’s legal authority to act and suggested any action would represent unprecedented regulation of the web, with little evidence of problems demonstrating the need of regulation.
“After six months in the FCC’s comment process, and nearly six years of arguing the issue, proponents of extreme net neutrality regulation have failed utterly when it comes to making their case,” wrote Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior EVP-external and legislative affairs in a blog entry.
“To be sure, they’ve used fear masterfully to create the impression of a crisis, and hyperbole to manufacture a threat. But when the time has come to put-up-or-shut-up, those same groups have failed to identify any existing problem they are trying to solve, or indeed any specific conduct the government must act to correct.”