Today, House Republicans approved legislation that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from implementing its Open Internet Order—rules set to go into effect this Friday, June 11. The worst part about this Congressional malarkey is that it is tucked into an appropriations bill that includes a whole bunch of other stuff that has nothing to do with net neutrality.
The anti-artist, anti-entrepreneur provisions are part of a 156-page bill that was blessed by the House Financial Services Subcommittee this morning. If this legislation gets further along, it could leave millions of Americans—including musicians and other creators—without essential protections against mischief from huge companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T (all of whom are already suing the FCC in court).
The craziest thing is, millions of Americans have gone on record with the FCC in support of clear rules of the road to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from picking winners and losers online. And this includes a majority of Republicans! So not only are members of Congress going against voters from their own party, they’re imperiling the free market.
We recently came across a quote from former New Yorker music critic and rocker Sasha Frere Jones in an “oral history” about the old Columbia House music service. The piece isn’t about net neutrality, but SFJ nails its importance to artists in a passing quote about about the streaming music debates:
“The artists are the ones who are screwed, because right now the labels have equity in these streaming services. We’re getting back to all the stuff that monopoly laws were supposed to break up.
“There is an alternative to that, in getting outside of it, but only if we have net neutrality. If they really fuck with net neutrality, then I don’t know what independent musicians are going to do. Right now, you can go up on Bandcamp and you can put out your record, and they take their 15 percent cut, and you can make a fair amount of money selling a couple hundred CDs. You can do okay. But if that kind of freedom is taken away, then it’s going to be a really strange game.”
As we’ve said countless times before, without net neutrality, it’s the little guy who gets screwed. We’re pretty sure the major labels, Spotify and Apple can afford to pay a toll to ISPs for faster delivery of their content. Heck, they may even want to as a competitive advantage. But if you’re one of a growing number of artists who feel that the current economics around full-catalog streaming isn’t great for your own bottom line, then you need alternatives. And those alternatives can only come from an open Internet where artist-friendly innovations have a chance to get off the ground.
The appropriation bill just approved by House Republicans would unmake the FCC’s protections in a very sneaky way: by preventing the Commission from implementing or enforcing its rules until the lawsuits are decided. Given the nature of the courts and the endless process of appeals, this would mean that the cable and telecom duopoly could do whatever they damn well please in the meantime. This is unacceptable.
We urge you to reach out to your members of Congress—especially your House representatives—to tell them to knock it off. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals is already looking into a stay of the Open Internet Order, and we need to see what they decide. If this sneaky appropriations bill somehow becomes law, it means that the FCC won’t be able to do anything even if the courts decide not to grant the stay. In other words, it’s a preemptive strike against common sense protections for creators and other small businesses.
It’s time to tell Congress that this aggression will not stand, man. Artists and other small businesses need net neutrality. And we vote.