Writers Guild of America, East Heartened By Chairman Wheeler’s Remarks At CES

NEW YORK, NY (January 8, 2015) – The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) is heartened by remarks made yesterday by Federal Communications Commission Chair Thomas Wheeler at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  Chairman Wheeler suggested that he supports using Title II as the jurisdictional predicate to apply nondiscrimination principles to the Internet and that he supports clear rules to challenge paid prioritization.  The WGAE agrees.

It is easy to give lip service to the concept of an open Internet.  Indeed, the telecommunications giants and ISPs that generate billions of dollars in revenue from individuals, advertisers, and others who distribute and consume content over the Internet’s digital pipeline all proclaim their support for digital democracy.  The hard work is in developing and implementing enforceable rules to make net neutrality a reality and not an empty phrase.

We think it is clear that the FCC must rest its rulemaking on authority granted in Title II, and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has essentially said as much.  There is nothing “old tech” about Title II.  Title II gives the Commission the foundation on which to apply rules that protect the American people as technology continues to transform the way ideas and stories and films and music and everything else is communicated.  Most of this information and content is distributed and consumed over a single pipe – a wire or fiber connection that transmits and receives digital signals.  Phone conversations, TV shows, web searches, all travel over the same system and the FCC has the authority to ensure that enormous deep-pocketed entities do not discriminate among content providers and content consumers.

Paid prioritization is the most visible method of discriminating and we are heartened that Chairman Wheeler recognizes that a simple “commercial reasonableness” standard is inadequate.  As the WGAE stated in its most recent FCC submission, our concern is that ISPs and other commercial entities might successfully contend that it is “commercially reasonable” to maximize their own profits by charging more for better access or for certain content.  Unfortunately, even if this might seem “commercially reasonable” for the ISPs and telecommunications giants, it would not be good for consumers or for smaller less well-financed content-creators whose independent voices would be shunted aside by gatekeepers whose pockets are deep enough to pay for prioritization.

Like the millions of Americans who have submitted comments to the FCC supporting real, enforceable net neutrality rules, the WGAE looks forward to the Commission’s vote on February 26 and hopes the final rules ensure that the Internet is open and democratic in practice and not just in rhetoric.

ABOUT THE WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST

The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.

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