Creators Of Hundreds Of TV Shows Petition FCC To Not Cancel Net Neutrality

People in the TV business know what happens when someone in a rush to get something, anything done by a deadline puts out a half-baked product that is doomed to failure. Ask anyone involved with just about any show that has debuted on NBC in the last few years, only to be pulled a few weeks later. So when the minds behind hundreds of TV shows tells the FCC Chairman that his plan for net neutrality needs a rewrite, maybe he should listen.

More than 240 TV showrunners and creators have joined the growing chorus of tech companies, consumer advocates and media interests, by writing to FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and asking him to rethink his ill-advised plan for neutered net neutrality.

“The open Internet is the greatest technological catalyst to participatory democracy and free speech since the printing press,” reads the letter — signed by TV biggies like Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan, Murphy Brown‘s Diane English, Carlton Cuse of Lost and Nash Bridges fame, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes, and hundreds of others. “That’s why totalitarian states around the world try to control it.”

At the core of the letter’s complaint is the notion of Internet “fast lanes,” where ISPs could charge certain content providers more money for a better class of access to the end-user. Previous net neutrality rules had prohibited this sort of prioritization, just as it forbade blocking or throttling of content. But Wheeler’s initial draft of new neutrality guidelines would allow them under certain conditions.

“If Net Neutrality is neutered, the Internet will become like cable television,” explains the letter. “A few corporate gatekeepers such as Comcast will be allowed to decide what content consumers can access and on what terms. The danger is that blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization could occur.”

The TV people say that pay-for-priority arrangements consolidate control of data “in the hands of the few, especially those with money.”

They also express concern about what impact fast lanes would have on startup technology and services that are intended to be disruptive to established, heavily consolidated media and content providers.

“That is exactly what has occurred in our traditional film and television business. After decades of consolidation and mergers, seven corporations control 95% of television production and viewing,” explains the letter. “But right now the Internet is opening up the media business to new competition. There are new buyers for what we as writers create. But if this new competition is unfairly pushed aside because the FCC adopts weak rules, rather than allowing consumers to decide what they prefer, neither innovation nor the best interests of society will be served.”

Wheeler has reportedly eased his stance on fast lanes, inserting language into his draft — in advance of Thursday’s scheduled vote by the full FCC — that would reportedly limit the cases in which pay-for-priority deals could be made. The amended draft also includes a request for public comment on two other notions — banning fast lanes altogether, and possibly reclassifying broadband as telecommunications infrastructure.

We’ll know after Thursday’s vote what does and doesn’t remain in Wheeler’s proposal. Until then, all we can do is continue to express our concerns.

Below is the full letter from the TV folks to Wheeler, along with the full list of signers (as of 2:30 p.m. ET on May 13). The Writers Guild is still allowing showrunners to add their name to this list, so we’re really hoping that Community‘s Dan Harmon crawls out from whatever dark alley he’s moping in for long enough to add his name.

Dear Chairman Wheeler:
We are writing to express our strong support for an open Internet. We are showrunners and creators of television and original Internet programs, and members of the Writers Guild of America, West.

The open Internet is the greatest technological catalyst to participatory democracy and free speech since the printing press. That’s why totalitarian states around the world try to control it.

There are two basic directions that the Internet can go, and the choice is in the FCC’s hands.

Currently, the open Internet works like the phone lines. Consumers can call whomever they want; nobody gets to limit who they can call. Likewise, consumers choose where they want to go on the Internet; no content can be given preferential treatment by their Internet provider.

If Net Neutrality is neutered, the Internet will become like cable television. A few corporate gatekeepers such as Comcast will be allowed to decide what content consumers can access and on what terms. The danger is that blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization could occur.

This puts decision making and power over the Internet in the hands of the few, especially those with money. The Internet is too vital to the free exchange of ideas to allow the few companies who control Internet technology to edit the ideas and content that flow through it.

Moreover, in this case what’s bad for free speech and democracy is also bad economic policy. Economists across the political spectrum agree that when companies can construct barriers to entry, markets are not free and efficient. New competition is locked out, resulting in a form of monopoly that causes consumers to suffer from higher prices- like their cable bills- and fewer choices.

That is exactly what has occurred in our traditional film and television business. After decades of consolidation and mergers, seven corporations control 95% of television production and viewing.

But right now the Internet is opening up the media business to new competition. There are new buyers for what we as writers create. But if this new competition is unfairly pushed aside because the FCC adopts weak rules, rather than allowing consumers to decide what they prefer, neither innovation nor the best interests of society will be served.

An open Internet is essential for free speech and participatory democracy. An open Internet has also been a tremendous engine for the generation of new jobs and businesses, an engine that properly rewards creators who have something compelling to say.

The Commission has the authority to keep the Internet free and open. We urge you to take the steps necessary to ensure the free flow of ideas and content across the web, without the threat of blocking or discrimination.

Sincerely,
Courtney Kemp Agboh
Mara Akil
Chris Alberghini
Adam Armus
Jeffrey Astrof
Neal Baer
Hunt Baldwin
Carol Barbee
Mike Barker
Jay Beattie
John D. Beck
Jeffrey Bell
Roberto Benabib
Dan Berendsen
Amy Berg
Jim Bernstein
Jennifer Bicks
Kevin Biegel
Ken Biller
Steve Blackman
April Blair
Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Rob Bragin
Christopher Brancato
Bradley Bredeweg
Shane Brennan
Scott Buck
Jack Burditt
Steve Callaghan
Bill Callahan
Clifton Campbell
Dave Caplan
Glenn Gordon Caron
Bridget Carpenter
Patti Carr
Jeremy Carver
Daniel Cerone
Ilene Chaiken
Adam Chase
Mike Chessler
Cynthia Cidre
David X. Cohen
Carter Covington
Elizabeth Craft
Alexandra Cunningham
Carlton Cuse
Ed Decter
Steven DeKnight
Bill D’Elia
Robert Doherty
Garrett Donovan
Chris Downey
Tim Doyle
James Duff
Jay Duplass
Pamela Eells
Charles H. Eglee
Lee Eisenberg
John Eisendrath
Diane English
Dave Erickson
Stephen Falk
Kevin Falls
Mark Fergus
Dave Finkel
Mickey Fisher
Emily Fox
Dana Fox
Victor Fresco
Bryan Fuller
Sera Gamble
Alexander Gansa
Greg Garcia
Leila Gerstein
Mike Gibbons
Vince Gilligan
Scott Gimple
Sivert Glarum
Neil Goldman
Sara Goodman
David A. Goodman
Howard Gordon
Al Gough
Peter Gould
David S. Goyer
Susannah Grant
Rob Greenberg
Lyn Greene
David Greenwalt
Jonathan Groff
Marc Guggenheim
Aaron Guzikowski
Aaron Harberts
Chris Harris
Ron Hart
DeAnn Heline
Felicia D. Henderson
Tom Hertz
Al Higgins
Jody Hill
Tod Himmel
David Hoge
David Holden
Soo Hugh
Armando Iannucci
Lauren Iungerich
Sean Jablonski
Michael Jamin
Al Jean
Joanna Johnson
Jennifer Johnson
Dee Johnson
Jeff Judah
Tom Kapinos
Michael B. Kaplan
Jason Katims
Mitchel Katlin
Mike Kelley
Neal Kendall
Jack Kenny
Chris Keyser
Nahnatchka Khan
Callie Khouri
Kyle Killen
Marlene King
Daniel Knauf
Jay Kogen
Aaron Korsh
Eric Kripke
Liz Kruger
Sam Laybourne
Joni Lefkowitz
Jennifer Levin
Richard Levine
Steven Levitan
Paul Lieberstein
Eric Lodal
Chuck Lorre
Rob Lotterstein
Steven Maeda
David Manson
Jim Margolis
Michael Mariano
Andrew W. Marlowe
Glen Mazzara
Blake McCormick
David McFadzean
Brian McGreevy
Matthew McGuinness
Jamie McLaughlin
Jeff Melvoin
Carol Mendelsohn
Erica Messer
Rina Mimoun
Ronald D. Moore
Chris Mundy
Christopher Murphey
Kevin Murphy
Margaret Nagle
DJ Nash
Jan Nash
Stephen Nathan
Peter Nowalk
Rockne S. O’Bannon
Peter Ocko
Peter O’Fallon
Todd Slavkin
Patrick Sean Smith
Jill Soloway
Holly Sorensen
Tom Spezialy
Kathryn J. Steinberg
Dan Sterling
Bernie Su
Veena Sud
Craig Sweeny
Darren Swimmer
Tom Szentgyorgyi
Janet Tamaro
Matt Tarses
Christian Taylor
Betsy Thomas
Rob Thomas
Hans Tobeason
Donald Todd
Cyrus Voris
Greg Walker
Matthew Weiner
Lizzy Weiss
Matt Weitzman
John Wells
Mark Wilding
Lara Olsen
Peter Paige
Lennon Parham
James Parriott
Jonas Pate
Jim Patterson
Robert Peacock
Tony Phelan
Judd Pillot
Jeff Pinkner
Greg Plageman
Cameron Porsandeh
Bill Prady
Dawn Prestwich
Matt Pyken
Daniel Pyne
Luvh Rakhe
Andrew Reich
Ethan Reiff
Lukas Reiter
Shonda Rhimes
Jason Richman
Scott Rosenbaum
Melissa Rosenberg
Mike Royce
Kirk Rudell
Shawn Ryan
Ajay Sahgal
Nick Santora
Scott Satin
Karl Schaefer
Patrick Schumacker
Andy Schwartz
Mike Scully
Heath Seifert
Michael Seitzman
Naren Shankar
Craig Shapiro
Dan Signer
Josh Silverstein
Craig Silverstein
Vaun Wilmott
Hilary Winston
John Wirth
Nicholas Wootton
Craig Wright
Rob Wright
Nicole Yorkin
Graham Yost
David Zabel
Aaron Zelman
Ed Zuckerman
David Zuckerman

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  1. SuperSpeedBump says:

    I’m imagining Tom Wheeler with fingers in his ears saying “La La La, I Cant’ Hear You!”

  2. CommonC3nts says:

    The the fact that the FCC is willing to get rid of net neutrality shows how corrupt our government is.
    This is all very sad.