September 10, 2014

The Doomsday Scenario: Net Neutrality Dies & Independent Film Along With It

If you came across that dreaded spinning wheel of death as you visited your favorite sites today, it was thanks to Internet Slowdown Day, a day to show internet users what life online could look like without net neutrality. The call to action has been made, and it's not too late to get involved.

Hoping to make it vehemently clear to the FCC, Congress, and the White House that the end of net neutrality could mean the end of the internet as we know it, sites like Netflix, Vimeo, Kickstarter, and VHX (just to name a few) are participating in displaying a loading icon alert on their home pages to show users what it could be like if ISPs were given the power to slow down or speed up certain sites. At the forefront of Internet Slowdown Day is Battle for the Net, a movement that is giving users the opportunity to sign a citizen letter to lawmakers about their concerns for the future of the internet -- nearly 5 million people have already signed up. On their website they say:

We believe in the free and open Internet, with no arbitrary fees or slow lanes for sites that can't pay. All of the people, companies, and organizations below have taken a stand for "Title II reclassification," the only option that lets the FCC stop Team Cable from breaking the key principles of the Internet we love.

Kickstarter has also been very vocal and very clear about their stance on the situation. Posting on their blog today, they said:

We’re speaking out against the FCC’s draft Internet regulations that would allow cable companies to create a two-tiered Internet, divided into fast and slow lanes. These proposed rules would stifle innovation, discourage creativity, and destroy the Internet that we know and love.

Don't know what all the hubbub is about? Check out our write-up on net neutrality here. Also, here's John Oliver to explain it and the issues concerning it.

What does this have to do with filmmaking? A lot. Considering the fact that streaming services are quickly becoming the way indie filmmakers get their content to their audience, it's deeply concerning to think of a future where the internet is no longer a democratizing platform. For instance, if certain deep-pocketed content companies are given preferential treatment over others, smaller indie streaming/curation services like VHX, Reelhouse, and Yekra could seriously suffer. We could potentially see blockbusters -- films heavily invested in by said content companies -- being streamed in pretty HD, while indies suffer through choppy and pixelated SD. Essentially, your content could suffer being put into the slow lane of the new internet, while other content is rushing past yours in the fast lane.

The internet has been instrumental in making it possible for indie filmmakers to show their work to the world -- for most of us it's the only place where our films will ever be seen. It's a place where content is made equal in terms of accessibility, regardless of traffic. If the internet is no longer neutral, it only becomes yet another door through which we don't have access. And if we don't have access (to an audience), or at least an adequate amount of access, what will become of our work? If all of our hard work, all of the time and money spent, all of the sacrifices we've made in order to create content for a potential audience is brought down by a loading screen that wasn't there before -- what then? As filmmakers, we're only just now beginning to enjoy the digital revolution. Don't let it be cut short.

Final comments are due to the FCC by September 15. Check out Battle for the Net for more on the fight for net neutrality.     

Your Comment

12 Comments

Right, this is called FEAR MONGERING, its what government does... Regulate corporations, because they are evil... Umm, didnt government CREATE CORPORATIONS? You have to apply for corporate status FROM THE GOVERNMENT, which gives them the protections which allows them to be evil without consequence. Give up all your freedom, so they can protect you from TERRORISTS... But didnt government CREATE TERRORISTS by their actions in other countries? Now you want the same people who bring you the death of freedom and idependence, to the last FREE AND INDEPENDENT system on the planet. Sure, they will protect you from the EVIL CORPORATIONS THAT THEY CREATED, while they control everything you see and do on the internet, to PROTECT YOU FROM WHAT THEY DONT WANT YOU TO DO....

September 11, 2014 at 12:05AM, Edited September 11, 12:05AM

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Yes, please have the government protect me from unlimited internet speeds from fiber to my house. That evil Verizon corporation, who limits my internet speed to only 500Mbps up/down. I am so glad we have such a caring wonderful government to protect us...

September 11, 2014 at 12:42AM

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While I have doubt your fear, that your ability to watch silly cat videos on Youtube will be restricted somehow. Let me reassure you that, Youtube has a serous vested interest in making sure you can watch all the silly cat videos you want and your ISP, who stays in business from people like you, paying their monthly fees, has an equal concern about how fast and reliable your cat videos are delivered to you. The only entity that is AFRAID of your ability to connect to sites on the internet is the entity that wants to control every aspect of your life... The government...

September 11, 2014 at 12:57AM, Edited September 11, 12:57AM

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The article pic is sooo nod obelisk! Whaaammm, "unit lost". Amirite???

September 11, 2014 at 1:08AM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3841

If this happens everyone cool will be on Meshnet. Better technology exists for creating a network that is not privatized. If the internet starts to suck (more) we'll make a better one. Considering I used to have to shlep into Manhattan from Long Island to go to Kim's video to get all of indie film fix... connecting to Meshnet will be relatively painless... compared to the Long Island Railroad that is.

September 11, 2014 at 2:19AM

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Jesse Zook Mann
Producer/ Director
165

I think meshnet sounds really interesting - that would be amazing to have 2 internets - one corporate and one for the people. Thanks Jesse for this - I had no idea.

September 11, 2014 at 8:54AM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1589

I propose T-shirts be made:

"The New Internet: At Least It's Better Than the LIRR"

(PS: Thanks, Jesse. I had no idea about this either!)

September 11, 2014 at 2:29PM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

This is the result of thinking in hierarchies. Not very different from NFS giving its participants a score - a number that says all :)

September 11, 2014 at 2:47PM

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It is so important for the masses to take a stand on this. Many people do not see the direct effects right now so they are more passive and inactive on the issue. Once the potential effects of NN in favour of big tele go into play then people will want to take action. Unfortunately it will be too late.

September 11, 2014 at 2:59PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1011

Since Internet service providers use public land for running fiber optic lines and cable lines, the ISPs should be forced to adhere to net neutrality. If they don't, then their lines should be ripped out of the ground.

So, it's very simple: If you use public land, then you must follow public rules.

September 11, 2014 at 7:32PM

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Glenn Bossik
Videographer
488

This is huge for indie film and the future of entertainment. It's not about some government overseer making these rules but corporations that want control of a pipeline. All indie filmmakers should be for net neutrality. It may be the only form of distribution we have left.

September 11, 2014 at 9:16PM

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Gabe Michael
Executive Producer / Director
226

The only real change in government will be when we have more than two main parties in office. If the politicians know they could be out of power for a long time, more than simply a presidential term, then they will start listening to the people.

September 13, 2014 at 12:11AM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
223

oh the horror - imagine, an internet that is less internety than it might otherwise be.

I, for one, have no desire in the government or corporations running my life or anyone else's. That being said, how do you imagine the government or these corporations get the power that they get? You guessed it, comes right from the source. The everyday citizen. We are responsible for what happens in the future, based on how we decide to gravitate or support business models, platforms, or legislation. The meal you eat, that product you buy, and that dude you vote (or care less to vote) into office (not just the president), are all reflections of our futures.

THAT ASIDE - what has the internet really done for the world as a whole? Yes, things have become accessible and convenient. New business and start ups have been given the opportunity to flourish, and the age of information has come into full-swing with all the content we could possible hope to search for at our fingertips. We have now embraced the freedom of informational independence and knowledge and know it well!

…or do we?

What statistical benefit has the internet provided economically as a whole? Job creation - right? it is apparent, but to how many jobs lost due to our dependency on the web. How many careers mutated or suffered? The value associated with harnessing and embracing your craft, while the digital age expects you to be at the top of your game with a multitude of skill-sets, and a modest price. We all gravitate towards careers in some form of entertainment, because it's easier to try and sell - and how the world notices us as an individual "participating" in society. Competition, unfortunately, becomes the pit of fire we are subjected to fight over for our livelihood.

Let me not even get started on how damaging socially and mentally the internet has become towards the tangibly educated youth, let alone the contortion on personality and self-esteem of it's participants.

Don't get me wrong. The internet is an incredible tool, one worth cherishing dearly - but it is becoming increasingly obvious we are unable to keep up with the speed at which we are expecting and demanding our technology to push forward. We thrive on it with a heavy imbalance. I wouldn't be in the creative career that I'm in today without the internet. Who am I to hold such a judgmental candle in it's wake? I wouldn't be here voicing my opinion without it - never mind even having an opinion to adequately voice in the first place. This is, indeed, a lovely soap box.

Nevertheless, we ought to take into account how worked up we get over such an indulgent luxury. The opportunity to be creative is something we all yearn for - but often I feel as though we begin to think we are entitled to it and entitled to make a career out of it. If the internet somehow became non-existent, i'm inclined to believe everyone here would still keep their passion for storytelling and creativity. Many may not survive on it, but that passion would still exist. Dependency on something beyond our individual control can be caustic.

A note of perception: If you don't like the ingredients in your food, would it not make more sense to make your own rather than sign a petition and wait for change? Don't starve yourself in the hopes of a collective victory.

September 14, 2014 at 3:27AM

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