Content producers cheer FCC passage of net neutrality rules

Exterior view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (Photo credit: AP photo by Paul Sakuma)

Exterior view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (Photo credit: AP photo by Paul Sakuma)

By Meg James and Yvonne Villarreal
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Federal Communications Commission’s landmark vote on open Internet rules is being cheered by some in Hollywood who see the Internet as the new frontier for creativity and free expression.

The FCC voted, 3-2, on Thursday to adopt tough net neutrality rules that would provide greater government oversight of Internet service providers, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T.

“This is clearly a victory for everyone — not just Hollywood — but everyone who uses the Internet,” said Chris Keyser, president of the Writers Guild of America, West. “It is a critical moment in the ongoing fight for free expression and robust competition.”

Hollywood’s creative ranks — the WGA, producers and entrepreneurs who have brought us Netflix and thousands of YouTube channels — have lobbied for the increased freedom to create and distribute content to users without a media company go-between.

The WGA, for example, has been a leader in Hollywood in the push for net neutrality rules, which forbid broadband Internet providers from blocking or slowing traffic on their networks.

Netflix and Amazon.com also have voiced strong support for the measure.

Movie studios, television networks and other legacy businesses in Hollywood have largely stayed quiet on the issue. Major Hollywood interests are already grappling with tectonic shifts in consumer behavior. Thanks to the Internet, more viewers are watching programming on streaming services, and some are cutting the cable cord.

Media companies rely heavily on the billions of dollars they receive each year from pay-TV companies to distribute their channels. But they also see a new revenue stream created by licensing their shows to Internet streaming services.

The celebration this week has been particularly loud among the next generation of content producers. They have turned to the Internet to reach a large and growing audience.

“This battle has been such a long slog,” said Jay Bushman, who created the show “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” on YouTube.

“I don’t expect Thursday to be the end of it, by any means. But it’s certainly better than the alternative,” he said.

Bushman said he turned to the Internet several years ago because it was less restrictive than dealing with the entrenched networks.

“I didn’t need anybody’s permission,” he said. “You can make stuff, put it online and go directly to an audience.”

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