It's easy to become numb to the constant stream of real and fake news emanating from Washington, DC. But one issue requires constant vigilance and strong action from every corner of the music and tech industries: net neutrality.Net neutrality: the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
For music fans net neutrality means that internet providers can’t divide the web into fast lanes and slow lanes. Streams from smaller startups like Bandcamp and Radio Paradise have to be delivered with the same speed and quality as giants like Google's YouTube, Pandora or Spotify.
But the right to equal access to all music, video and other media and information on the net is under serious threat
President Trump appointed Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, as FCC chairman shortly after taking office, and Pai is a vocal and dedicated foe of net neutrality. He's already announced preliminary plans to roll back regulations that guarantee it.
But only some in the music community seem ready to fight.
Musician advocacy group The Future of Music Coalition has been fighting for net neutrality since 2007. “Pai still has a chance to do the right thing, leave net neutrality alone, and end this attack on independent music,” Kevin Erickson, of the FMC told Pitchfork
. “In the coming weeks and months, musicians, independent labels, and, we suspect, a whole lot of music listeners will be filing official comments urging him to do just that.”
A2IM, which represents independent labels is very concerned, but not yet ready to take a firm position against Pai's plans. “We need to be extremely careful about anything that could potentially result in some form of censorship or limitation of freedom of speech,” said A2IM president Richard “The proposed plan has huge amounts of potential for unintended consequences.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, representatives of music biggest players have been less supportive. Major label trade group, the RIAA has been silent; and the DiMA which lobbies for Pandora, Spotify, Apple and other streamers seems to want to have it both ways. —Bruce Houghton
Greg Barnes of DiMA told the Pitchfork that the trade group isn’t necessarily opposed to undoing the rule that treats broadband internet as a utility service, but music fans should still have unbiased access to whatever streaming service they want."
Can someone please explain how that works?
The time to fight for net neutrality is now.
FCC may take their first vote on the subject on May 18th, with comments from the public logged through mid-summer and a final vote in the Fall. The courts and Congress could also weigh in.
A record 3.7 million
comments have already been logged by the FCC. The Sunlight Foundation analyzed
800,000 of them and found that fewer than 1% wanted net neutrality rolled back. But big money is against us. Verizon alone is estimated
to have spent more than $100 million fighting net neutrality.
The independent music community must rise up forcefully, and not just with more comments to the FCC. In interviews and op-eds, from concert stages and on socials media, artists and all of the the organizations that represent them must speak out against all efforts to roll back neutrality.
The net has been a great equalizer for d.i.y. and independent music, allowing it to bypass gatekeepers and go straight to fans. But that could change if the rules protecting net neutrality shift.
Equal access is a right that we all must fight for.