This week, I didn’t share any new videos at Moving Poems because it was a major holiday in the U.S. and not too many people were online. But if the new FCC chair (and former Verizon lawyer) Ajit Pai gets his way and net neutrality rules are overturned, my posts might be this sparse every week. Why? Because without net neutrality, it’s difficult to imagine that no-budget and low-budget filmmakers, video artists and remixers will be able to keep doing what they’re doing. Want to find good indie music for a soundtrack, for example? Good luck with that.
So imagine for a second a musician sells their own digital music — on their website, on Bandcamp, wherever. iTunes is riding in that fast lane. Spotify? Probably. But Bandcamp? The musician’s website? They’re more like a rusty BMX pulling a three-wheeled Radio Flyer wagon over a cracked sidewalk.
When someone buys digital music from an artist directly they’ll see long, slow downloads that hopefully manage to finish. When they stream music from that same musician’s site it’ll hang and pause unless it’s compressed to hell. But when that same person buys from iTunes? Smooth like butter.
Some fans will put up with the frustrating experience of buying direct from an artist because they know it’s better for them, but that’s not everyone. Expect direct-to-fan artist businesses to migrate to iTunes and Google. Without Title II net neutrality the web is just a battle of media titans with musicians caught in the crossfire. Artists who don’t sign everything over to big labels or plan to sell only through the biggest outlets will be hurt. The independent music world will be fundamentally changed. We’ve moved to a digital world. That isn’t going to change. Killing Title II net neutrality makes it even harder for independent musicians to survive in a digital landscape.
It’s hard to know what will happen with the big video hosting sites such as Vimeo and YouTube, but several analyses I’ve seen suggest they’ll become an extra paid option for most users, who might well just decide to stick with Netflix or Hulu. Websites like Moving Poems and Poetry Film Live are way out in the “long tail” of the internet — we’re nobody’s economic priority, and as the African proverb says, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.
To put it simply, this is an existential threat to the internet as we know it. Here’s comedian John Oliver’s excellent and entertaining explainer from last May:
Public pressure is really critical over the next three weeks. So please help if you can — especially if you’re a U.S. citizen — and submit comments to the FCC as well as call or write to Congress, and consider joining street protests.
Hopefully this will all be going to court, and if this TechCrunch article is correct, the FCC may have a hard time justifying its definition of how the internet works. For more political analysis, here are Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian from the Young Turks:
As for me, I agree with this guy:
Nationalize the internet. We paid to develop it. We dropped 400 billion for infrastructure that the companies never completed and just kept.
Why the fuck should private companies restrict it?
— Dave Anthony (@daveanthony) November 22, 2017