What Filmmakers Should Do About Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality directly affects our ability to reach our audiences, and the time is now to fight against its rollback.
[Editor's Note: This story has been updated since original publication. As of November 21, it was reported that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will unveil plans to fully dismantle the agency's Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The proposal will be voted on at the FCC’s Dec. 14 meeting, where it is expected to be approved.]
You may have noticed that many of your favorite websites have joined together in the fight for net neutrality. Regardless of your political affiliation, if you are a No Film School reader, you want to make movies and have those movies connect with audiences. A neutral internet is a tremendous tool for not only learning how to make movies, but also sharing those movies with audiences.
The FCC is planning a rollback of net neutrality provisions, something every filmmaker should be terrified of. Vimeo, host to many of our favorite creators, has made a quick video explaining why they are fighting for net neutrality:
What do net neutrality rollbacks mean for you?
If net neutrality rules are rolled back, your internet service provider could potentially prioritize their own content over a competitor's. If Time Warner goes to war with Netflix, it could potentially slow down or block Netflix from its service, leaving you frustrated as a viewer, waiting on longer load times. As a filmmaker, if your project ends up on Netflix in its release, it robs of potential audience members because of a corporate squabble. While that is a hypothetical, Netflix and Comcast have squabbled in the past, resulting in Comcast throttling Netflix speeds. Google is also an internet provider in many communities through Google Fiber, and could potentially prioritize their own YouTube offerings against Vimeo or other platforms.
Anyone who believes in the free speech promise of America should be fighting against these changes.
Worse, it opens the door to censorship in the future. Walmart and Blockbuster have famously enforced certain morality on the films they agree to distribute. Rolling back net neutrality would pave a way for Comcast or Time Warner to make similar decisions about what content they do or do not want on their services, and shutting down platforms, pages or individual films purely because they disagree with them. For more than just filmmakers, anyone who believes in the free speech promise of America should be fighting against these changes.
Countless filmmakers have horror stories of their movies not reaching the audiences they could because of corporate complications, and net neutrality makes it easier for your film to find its audience no matter which CEO is fighting with which other CEO for turf. Choosing what platform your film releases on should be your decision, and not made by an internet service provider.
What can you do?
So, what can a filmmaker do? You can start by sending a form letter to congress and the FCC here. If you live in the United States, nothing is more important than contacting your senators and representatives directly with the clear, unequivocal message that you want your internet to remain neutral, which will let the internet be as weird as you want it to be. Because internet creators should be free to make and share the amazing things we want.