Music & Tech Industries Say FCC's Net Neutrality Vote Will 'Negatively Affect Innovation'

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Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pauses while speaking during an open meeting in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 16, 2017. 

"This is a fundamentally anti-democratic action that will have unintended consequences for the American economy for decades to come."

Time will tell the implications the Federal Communication Commission's vote on Thursday (Dec. 14) to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulation will have, but critics have been quick to cry foul at the Republican-led decision. 

The decision could profoundly effect the way the internet is run by rolling back restrictions that keep broadband providers across the country from blocking websites or collecting tolls for faster access. And those music and tech companies and organizations who agreed to comment to Billboard on the ruling all all spoke out against it and what it might mean for the future of the industry. 

"Net neutrality is crucial to keeping the web a vibrant and powerful place that fosters innovation," said SoundCloud CEO Kerry Trainor. "Eliminating these protections not only reduces consumer choice and accessibility of services, but inhibits the open, creative expression that has flourished on countless internet communities, including SoundCloud."

While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and broadband providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have said the negative response to the regulatory dismantling has blown the issue out of proportion and promised they will not change user's internet experience, those companies still lobbied hard to overturn the rules. 

"Today's vote represents a departure from more than a decade of broad, bipartisan consensus on the rules governing the internet. Relying on ISPs to live up to their own 'promises' is not net neutrality and is bad for consumers," said Internet Association president and CEO Michael Beckerman in a statement. "Let's remember why we have these rules in the first place. There is little competition in the broadband service market -- more than half of all Americans have no choice in their provider -- so consumers will be forced to accept ISP interference in their online experience. This is in stark contrast to the websites and apps that make up Internet Association, where competition is a click away and switching costs are low."

Beckerman added that the The Internet Association -- which represents internet companies including Spotify, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Pandora and others -- is currently weighing its legal options in a lawsuit against today's order and hopes Congress will bring "strong, enforceable net neutrality protections into law."

Added a Google spokesperson: "We remain committed to the net neutrality policies that enjoy overwhelming public support, have been approved by the courts, and are working well for every part of the internet economy. We will work with other net neutrality supporters large and small to promote strong, enforceable protections."

Under the new rules, internet service providers will be free to discriminate against websites and apps, while favoring others, so long as they post their policies online or tell the FCC. This, according to American Association of Independent Music CEO Richard James Burgess, will benefit the larger corporations who can afford to buy into the new system and negatively effect those smaller ones who cannot. 

"This decision will disadvantage all the small and medium-sized enterprises, including the ones that make up our membership, and will negatively affect innovation," said Burgess in a statement. "This is a fundamentally anti-democratic action that will have unintended consequences for the American economy for decades to come."

Bandsintown managing partner Fabrice Sergent echoed that sentiment, saying the ruling would disproportionately affect young artists. 

“This ruling will hinder the opportunity for emerging artists to get discovered, which is a shame as nothing contributes more to cultural diversity than music," he said. "Net neutrality is not only about technology, obstructing equal access for all will have a massive cultural impact on our society."

 

"The idea that all information online aka data should be treated equally is one of the core principles in an open internet," added Discogs CEO Chad Dahlstrom. "Threats to that principle are threats to open dialogue, freedom of speech and the ability to choose what and how you get information online. We should not allow content to be throttled, blocked or removed based on a telecom or influential individuals decisions. That is an open door to censorship and big corporations once again choosing what we can see, hear and learn about. The internet must remain open."

Kevin Erickson, national organizing director for Future of Music Coalition, said his organization will also be supporting legal efforts to overturn the FCC's move and petitioning Congress to intervene. 

"The FCC has ignored the voices of countless musicians -- from arena rockers to classical concert hall stars, hip-hop trailblazers to DIY singer-songwriters -- and dozens of independent record labels large and small, all united in opposition to this move," he said. "This move will hurt musicians' ability to reach their audiences on their own terms, express themselves and their communities' concerns freely, and build sustainable careers—while enriching huge ISPs, allowing them to get in between artists and their fans."