Prewitt defends so-called Net neutrality issue

WASHINGTON — Some independent film and television producers are mad as hell at MPAA topper Dan Glickman.

In a strongly worded letter sent to Glickman on Friday, Independent Film and Television Alliance prexy-chief Jean M. Prewitt said she was “astounded” to learn of Glickman’s recent remarks at ShoWest attacking proponents of so-called Net neutrality, which calls for some kind of governmental assurance that broadband service providers will not discriminate against Web users or sites.

“I would like to take this opportunity to lay out why this issue is so important to IFTA and the independent industry we represent and why we strongly disagree with the position you and your members have taken,” Prewitt wrote.

Speaking for member studios, Glickman had denounced any federal Net neutrality mandate, claiming it would inhibit broadband service providers from monitoring traffic for pirated content.

Prewitt described the Internet as “the only true open opportunity for independents” to reach consumers in the age of “massive industry consolidation.” She warned that the Web’s openness is currently threatened by a small number of large ISPs, which can speed or slow traffic as they see fit.

“The issue is not whether government should regulate the Internet, but whether there will be effective oversight to prevent a handful of corporate giants from imposing their own version of private regulation to the public’s detriment,” Prewitt wrote.

“Comcast’s recent throttling of peer-to-peer traffic illustrates how easily piracy concerns and network needs can become excuses for private vigilantism,” she continued. “Copyright enforcement is crucial to our industry, but that cannot be the rationale for abandoning the principles of open and competitive access.”

Comcast claimed it slowed traffic only for necessary network management. The Federal Communications Commission has initiated an inquiry into the incident.

Prewitt charged that distribution opportunities for indies have shrunk dramatically as deregulation has led to consolidation of power in the hands of large corporate interests. She said that keeping the Internet open and free of discrimination is in the interest of everyone, “including your members.”

In response, the MPAA said: “The MPAA places great value on its partnership with IFTA, but sometimes good friends disagree, especially on complicated issues like regulation of the Internet. We believe that broad government regulation of the Internet is the wrong path because it would damage the effort to battle movie theft and threaten the viability of legal online distribution options for all filmmakers.”

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