Showbiz Caucus Warns of Hasty FCC Action on Net Neutrality

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As the FCC prepares to make the first steps toward new rules of the road for the Internet on Thursday, a Hollywood group of writers, producers and directors are warning that the agency’s authority to impose such rules should be established first.

The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors released a letter on Wednesday that warns that the Internet “is to be arbitrarily adulterated by a handful of bureaucrats: five unelected members of the Federal Communications Commission who seem sure that while the Internet isn’t broken and in fact works with brilliant efficiency, it will not survive unless they fix it.”

The letter is signed by the chairman of the caucus, Norman Powell; its executive secretary Chuck Fries; and government affairs co-chairs Lionel Chetwynd and Herman Rush.

The letter does not state that no rules are needed, but that it is a matter for Congress to decide, and not through administrative law. They also object to what they see is a limited comment period, and urge that any vote be delayed until the FCC’s jurisdiction is determined.

“We appeal to members of Congress in both the House and the Senate — indeed, all Americans — to speak up now and prevent government by dictatorial regulation,” the letter states. “We urge you to join with us in letting our elected representatives know that we will no longer accept the unchecked authority of administrators and regulators reaching beyond their jurisdiction.”

Their letter is different from one sent by the Writers Guild of America West, in that the caucus focuses on the process for determining whether the rules are needed.

On Tuesday, the WGAW sent a letter to the FCC signed by more than 250 content creators, calling on the FCC to not impose rules that would allow for Internet providers to sell access to “fast lanes” to ensure that content is delivered to consumers quicker. Such “paid prioritization” is the source of much debate as the FCC examines chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal, with public interest groups warning that it would create an Internet of haves and have nots. The writers expressed fears that without robust rules, the Internet risked devolving into something resembling cable TV.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans leaders on Tuesday warned the FCC not to pursue one approach to net neutrality in which the Internet would be treated like a utility. They warned that “micromanaging the Internet” would curtail investment and stifle innovation.

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