TV Writers: Our Online Stories Need Title II

Says without strong net neutrality rules, monopolists will control pipe
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Fearing its members will be relegated to Internet "slow lanes" by big media companies, the Writers Guild of America told the FCC Monday it needs to reclassify Internet access service (ISP) under Title II. And it did so by telling some stories.

In its comment to the FCC, the Writers Guild of America, West, says the issue is about free speech as well as fair competition, and that reclassification is the only way to protect those values from monopolists.

WGAW members have been looking to the Internet for more creative outlets as, they argue, their access to traditional outlets as decreased due to consolidation.

One story appended to the comments came from Margaret Dunlap, writer and co-executive producer of web series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

“When the show began [in 2011], we had no corporate backing, no studio, no network partnerships at all," she told the FCC. "No industry player was interested in making scripted Internet content for a young, female audience that didn't revolve around fashion, beauty, or lifestyle topics, even on a miniscule budget like ours," she said.

That meant she had to post her series to the web, she said, "the same way that someone would put up a video of their cat." But thanks to net neutrality, she said, the video loaded just as fast and well as anything from Netflix, Hulu or NBC.com.

Her series won the 2013 Emmy for outstanding interactive program.

WGAW argues that with Title II as a bulwark, there will be more such stories. "Reclassification will...ensure that writers and other innovators can offer their wares in free competition, rather than being relegated to an Internet slow lane that can be controlled by Internet service providers."

The deadline for final comments on the FCC's proposal not to reclassify under Title II is Monday, but it is not clear when the new rules will be ready for a vote.

WGAW is a union representing TV writers of television shows, movies, Internet and radio programming.

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