February 26, 2015

What the FCC's New Net Neutrality Rules Mean for Filmmakers (At Least for Now)

Today the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve new net neutrality regulations, called the Open Internet Order.

It "reclassifies broadband Internet access as a 'telecommunications service' under Title II of the Communications Act while simultaneously foregoing utility-style, burdensome regulation that would harm investment." Here's a rundown from The Verge about today's ruling:

This is essentially what they approved today (you can read the rest of the regulations here):

  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

So what does it mean for content creators? Lowell Peterson of the WGA and Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor recently spoke to Fox Business about the decision:

It basically means things stay the way they are for the majority of us. If you're distributing your film online, you're not going to have to pay more, and if you're uploading your next short film online, people will continue to enjoy it through whatever provider they have, without having to pay more just because it might be a bandwidth-sucking HD (or even 4K) video. 

If you're worried about the ISPs, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had this to say after the ruling:

Let me be clear, the FCC will not impose “utility style” regulation. We forbear from sections of Title II that pose a meaningful threat to network investment, and over 700 provisions of the FCC’s rules. That means no rate regulation, no filing of tariffs, and no network unbundling. During the 22 years that wireless voice has been regulated under a light-touch Title II like we propose today, there has never been concern about the ability of wireless companies to price competitively, flexibly, or quickly, or their ability to achieve a return on their investment.

Regardless of what anyone says, if there are lawyers involved, there are always going to be loopholes and possible ways of circumventing regulations. If the Open Internet Order stays as is, it should mean that the vast majority of us will continue doing what we're doing without impediments of any kind. This is good, and this is the way the internet should be.
 
Things do get a little tricky as they relate to the catch-all general conduct provision. It could potentially mean that ISPs can still charge content providers (like Netflix) without asking permission. Here's Jeff John Roberts of Gigaom on that:

Instead, the agency will use a catch-all general conduct provision to stop practices that the FCC deems “unjust” and “unreasonable” under the common carrier law.

FCC staff added that this system does not mean that ISP’s will have to seek permission to charge for interconnection, or to offer free data plans. But all the same, the agency will step in if companies have gone too far, and will investigate complaints.

It's intended to better future-proof the regulation, but it's unclear if it will turn out to be a big loophole as stated by Stacey Higginbotham over at Gigaom
 
The fight isn't over yet, as Congress will likely weigh in, since the FCC is just a regulatory board, and not a law-making board. It's possible things could change in the next year, but if everything stays as is with this new ruling, it means the internet should stay open for everyone.

Your Comment

7 Comments

Actually, agencies like the FCC do write their own laws which they then regulate. Lawyers and judges later shape how those laws are interpreted. The legislative branch only becomes involved if they happen to be paying attention.

February 26, 2015 at 10:46PM

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Ty Evind
Creator
161

Great concepts are always, always ruined when government gets involved.

February 27, 2015 at 2:37PM

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Edwin Rea
Music Composition, Screen Writing, Novelist
98

Short term gain, long term pain.

February 27, 2015 at 9:45PM, Edited February 27, 9:45PM

3
Reply

Great article. Thanks 4 sharing. Agree "internet should always stays open for everyone."

March 1, 2015 at 12:28AM

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Jeff M.
Director/Writer/Editor/Cinematographer
155

'legal' and 'lawful' are keywords here.
By changing other laws the meaning of net neutrality can be changed.

March 2, 2015 at 11:46AM, Edited March 2, 11:46AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8797

I picked up on that wording, too.

March 4, 2015 at 9:57AM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
274

Why are they messing with something that isn't broken?

March 4, 2015 at 3:47AM

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