FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

An ‘Open-Internet’ Letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

How the FCC can foster competition while protecting the public from M&A downside

Because you will be the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, we want to initiate a dialogue with you—and the public. At the core of that dialogue: How the FCC can foster competition in the communications market yet at the same time protect the American public from media concentration and oligarchic control of television, radio and the internet.

You have been appointed to serve as chair of the FCC by President Trump, whose inaugural address promised “transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to the American People.” If he is to be believed, then you must share with him the news that the people already have spoken—loudly—in favor of net neutrality. Fully four million comments alone were submitted in support of the current rule, further amplified by demonstrations, op-ed pieces and countless other expressions of support.

We respectfully submit that the FCC’s Title II-based net neutrality rule is precisely the kind of regulation that should appeal to people across the political spectrum. because it serves to enhance competition online and creates a structure protecting consumers from overreach by entities that could otherwise use their concentrated market power to distort the workings of the marketplace.

Already there are numerous examples of America’s largest media conglomerates abusing loopholes in Title II to limit access to content to consumers. Most notably, we have seen such net neutrality opponents as T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon use “zero-rating” plans to select what content should count against a user's data cap. Such plans only increase the power and leverage media conglomerates have over consumers. 

The public also has expressed grave concern about media consolidation. Six conglomerates already control more than 80 percent of media distribution in this country. When mega-mergers are approved with little oversight or safeguards, it improperly restricts opportunities for content creators and entrepreneurs to innovate and compete, thus denying consumers the widest possible range of compelling, diverse, informative and yes, entertaining content.

The Writers Guild of America, East, represents thousands of writers working in film, television, news and digital media. Our members are directly affected by the decisions made by the FCC. They have made it clear that they want their work to be accessible to as many people as possible through an open internet and a competitive marketplace. 

If the FCC were to overturn net neutrality and allow companies like AT&T and Time Warner to merge, the real losers will be hardworking Americans who will see their bills increase and their access to content restricted. As you assume the chairmanship of the FCC, please contemplate all the possible consequences of your actions and take these vital concerns to heart.

Thank you for your attention and congratulations on your appointment.

Michael Winship is the President of the Writers Guild of America, East. Lowell Peterson is the Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East.