Writers Want Open Net

The Writers Guild of America East today came out strongly in favor of net neutrality and an open Internet. It also warned that the planned deal that would give cable giant Comcast a controlling stake in NBC Universal could restrict access of outside content creators.

The union filed comments on the topics to the Federal Communications Commission in response to the agency’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Net Neutrality.

The WGAE said it supports the proposed codification of the six principles described in the notice that the FCC adopted on Oct. 22. “We think it is critical that the extraordinary potential of the Internet not be stifled by corporate conglomerates that restrict access for their own commercial gain,” the WGAE said. “Our members know firsthand how an open Internet permits them to create more innovative, informative content and to distribute it directly to the public.”

Among the six principles, forbidding providers from blocking users’ access to lawful content of their choice and requiring providers to treat lawful content in a nondiscriminatory manner “most directly address” the interest of creators, the union wrote.

“The Internet and other digital media offer an unprecedented opportunity for creators to reach consumers and for people to watch and read what they want, when they want,” it said. “This is very different from traditional media, in which major studios, distributors and television networks control the flow of movies and programs. We believe people would benefit from an Internet that offers a greater variety of options than what is currently available on television, radio and the movie theater.”

In its comments, the WGAE also referenced the planned Comcast-NBCU deal, which is expected to get a long regulatory review, as a potential risk to the principle of non-discrimination.

“One of the central purposes of the merger is to give Comcast better access to and control over the production of content,” the WGAE said. “At the same time, Comcast will continue to expand its digital distribution business. Comcast will have a powerful incentive to use pricing to favor its own content.”

Discussing the risk of Internet piracy, the WGAE emphasized that it “strongly opposes” piracy. However, “fighting piracy is an important task for law enforcement agencies,” it added. “It is not grounds for restricting content creators’ access to the Internet.”