It was a cuh-rayzee week for the internet, but things are looking up.
You may recall a couple of our earlier posts where we explained how an April 2010 court decision threw the FCC’s ability to protect the open internet into serious doubt. We’re not gonna get into the whole legal to-do, but suffice it to say, there were some questions about how the Commission might move forward.
Here at FMC, we look at this stuff from the musician’s perspective (is there a Department of the Obvious?). The old version of the music industry was built on a system of bottlenecks and gatekeepers that prevented the vast majority of creators from entering the marketplace. This was mostly due to the scarcity of physical product and broadcast spectrum, the high cost of distribution and several other factors. Even those artists lucky enough to get in the door had to assign away their copyrights in exchange for a shot at reaching listeners. By contrast, the internet lets musicians make crucial connections with their fans on their own terms. If you control your own music, like our pals OK Go, you can do some amazing things without having to ask permission.
This could all change, if the big telecommunications and cable companies become the new gatekeepers.
It’s also important to leave room for innovation so that more legal, licensed services can be established. When we first started talking about the promise of the internet a decade ago, there wasn’t a lot to point to in terms of legitimate, online music services — now, new ones pop up every day. By preserving the open structures that allow for innovation, we get closer to a legitimate digital music marketplace where musicians are compensated and fans can access the music they want.
FMC started the Rock the Net campaign back in 2007 to demonstrate that the music community cares about net neutrality — the principle that protects the open internet. In 2009, we welcomed the news that the FCC was working on rules that would make sure Internet Service Providers didn’t do nutty stuff like censor Pearl Jam performances or block content that competes with their own. We believe that musicians — and everyone else, really — should have access to the digital marketplace and a basic guarantee that their freedom of expression won’t be quashed online.
That April court decision overturned a previous order that the FCC issued against Comcast telling them to stop messing with certain kinds of web traffic. It was basically a slap on the wrist, but Comcast fought the order and won in the DC District Circuit Court of Appeals. Remember, the judges didn’t say that the FCC shouldn’t or couldn’t or shouldn’t regulate broadband, but rather that the legal theories they used to do so amounted to a hill of beans. Or bits, as it were.
Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski made a decision that should help the FCC issue clear net neutrality rules and move forward with its National Broadband Plan. Genachowski’s move to “reclassify” broadband under a different section of the Telecom Act should give them more solid legal footing to protect the open internet and get high-speed service to more Americans. But it’s likely to be fought by the telecommunications and cable companies, whose interests aren’t always aligned with those of musicians and the public.
FMC will be keeping a close eye on developments, and you can be sure that if there’s an opportunity for musicians, labels and fans to get involved, we’ll let you know.
In the meantime, check out what other artists, like Damian Kulash of OK Go, Erin McKeown, R.E.M., stic.man of Dead Prez and more recently told the FCC about how they use the internet in their own lives and careers.