Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writers Guild Urges FCC to Protect Internet Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Writers Guild of America, West is urging the FCC to enact rules that protect a free and open Internet. On April 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals called into question the FCC’s power to regulate net neutrality because of the current classification of broadband services. In light of this decision, the WGAW urges the FCC to act within its statutory authority to reclassify broadband services as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act.

In its filing of comments in reply to the agency’s October 22, 2009 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the Guild noted that it was crucial that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) be prevented from discriminating in the delivery of content through online services in both the speed and cost of delivery.

“Network neutrality is essential to our democratic society as the Internet has replaced the town square as the place for public discourse and the exchange of ideas. We must ensure that all consumers have access, and that continued efforts to close the digital divide are not hampered,” said John Wells, president of the WGAW.

In the filing, the WGAW states: “A free and open Internet offers creative freedom and diversity for our members as well as increased choice for consumers. Competition in the Internet market is based on innovation rather than on market power or commercial sponsorship. Without the codification of the principles outlined in the FCC’s NPRM, traditional media conglomerates will be able to use their size and strength to dominate the online marketplace.”

Those principles contain a range of protections for consumers that that includes preventing an ISP from blocking any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user’s choice over the Internet, and requiring that an ISP treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.

In response to the question of the compatibility of copyright protection and network neutrality, the Guild believes the two goals are not mutually exclusive. The filing states: “To protect the value of content and the benefits to society that come from the creation of intellectual property, piracy must be addressed. The WGAW is committed to curtailing piracy as a matter of survival. However, we believe that the proper approach to online piracy must focus not on prior restraint but on tools to enforce the law. The WGAW does not believe that the threat of piracy should be used to create new barriers to entry on the Internet, nor to protect deep-pocketed content providers and their business partners from competitive forces. Just as important, piracy must not be used as a diversionary tactic that allows ISPs or huge content companies to enact a potentially discriminatory scheme of widespread copyright filtering.”

The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) is a labor union representing writers of motion pictures, television, radio and Internet programming, including news and documentaries. Founded in 1933, the Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members. It is involved in a wide range of programs that advance the interests of writers, and is active in public policy and legislative matters on the local, national and international levels. For more information on the WGAW, please visit:

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