There are some lobbying rows that pit the creative and technology industries against one another: the US Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012, for example, or the current debates in the US and Europe over safe harbour.
But in other cases, the two industries stand together. Net neutrality – the principle that all traffic on the internet is treated equally, rather than certain services and content being prioritised or slowed down by ISPs – being a prime example.
Plans by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to dismantle net neutrality regulations put in place in 2015 are whipping up a storm in the US this week.
“Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet,” announced FCC chair Ajit Pai. “Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”
Telcos are very happy about this, but the technology industry isn’t. “The FCC’s net neutrality rules are working well for consumers, and we’re disappointed in the proposal released today,” said a statement from Google, for example.
Democrat politicians are also up in arms. “If adopted, the FCC’s plan will change the way every American gets information, watches movies, listens to music, conducts business, and talks to their families,” claimed senator Michael Schatz. That mention of music is precisely why our industry could and should be involved in this debate too.
A world where one music-streaming service can take priority over another by paying a telco for ‘fast-lane’ access – or indeed where every music-streaming service feels obliged to pay to ensure that their (for example) hi-res tiers aren’t throttled, is one concern.
The un-level playing field for emerging startups to have a crack at disrupting or augmenting larger established music or video services is another. Plus there are implications for free speech that, while they may seem tangential to most music, are still worth standing up for.
Or to put it another way, turn to Cher (no, really). “Net Neutrality means Trump can Change The Internet!! It will include LESS AMERICANS NOT MORE!!” she tweeted yesterday. “Now Comcast, AT&T, Google Will show you ONLY WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO SEE!! SLOWER AND MORE EXPENSIVE AT THEIR WHIM!! SEE LESS, CHARGED MORE…”
Net Neutrality means
Trump can Change The
Internet ‼️It Will Include LESS AMERICANS NOT MORE‼️
Will show you ONLY WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO SEE ‼️SLOWER AND MORE EXPENSIVE AT THEIR WHIM‼️SEE LESS,CHARGED MORE…
— Cher (@cher) November 22, 2017
Music companies may not need to break out the Caps-Lock key in quite the same way, but we’ll be interested to see how our industry and its digital services join the net neutrality debate in the coming weeks.