Net neutrality or content neutrality?

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Net neutrality or content neutrality?

Mon Sep 21, 2009 @ 06:09PM PST

By Eriq Gardner


FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave an important speech at the Brookings Institute today in an apparent embrace of net neutrality. He announced the agency has begun to formalize a set of principals that would prohibit Internet providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web content and applications.

When advocates first proposed Net Neutrality a few years ago, it was a reaction to threats made by broadband providers to begin charging for tiered service. It then evolved into a plan to guard against telecoms degrading any disliked bandwidth-intensive service (e.g. P2P, FTP, online games).

We're now noticing that some are taking this opportunity to push a much bigger agenda.

For example, we received this statement from Jean Prewitt, president of the Independent Film & Television Alliance:

"For independent producers and distributors, it is critical that Internet providers not be allowed to discriminate and pick winners and losers in the delivery of content over the Internet. Neither we, nor consumers, can afford to have large gatekeepers restrict access to the Internet as they have restricted access to network and cable television."

And here's a statement from the American Cable Association:

"If the FCC moves forward with its rulemaking, ACA urges the Commission to ensure that broadband content providers are similarly prevented from imposing closed Internet business models that are even more problematic today than the concerns raised about the ability of broadband access providers to distort various forms of Internet commerce and competition."

In other words, there are quite a few folks who are pushing content neutrality today. ACA doesn't like the fact, for example, that ESPN uses its leverage in the satellite and cable marketplace to coerce broadband service providers into giving ESPN360 preferential treatment. The IFTA might be worried the burgeoning YouTubes of the world could give sweetheart deals to major studios at the expense of indie entertainment. It'll be interesting as the FCC hears comments and sets its rules how the agency will respond to these new thoughts on what net neutrality entails.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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