The Internet, the last free open and diverse democratic medium, is under attack. Net Neutrality, which provides that no content is favored over any other, and that content creators have an equal opportunity to freely disseminate their information, is being imminently threatened by greedy media megaconglomerates and their vassals. It is urgent that we fight those who would sacrifice our freedom for a profit. Net Neutrality will be the savior of independent art and commerce if we preserve it.
Three weeks ago, The New York Times reported on the recent Verizon-Google talks. What initially was clearly a conspiratorial plan to kill Net Neutrality and open the floodgates of a tiered, payment-based Internet is now being identified as a meeting of minds to discuss the possibility of a “parallel network”. Verizon and Google are hiding behind vocabulary, convinced that by renaming an issue, they can fool the American public into acquiescence. Yet, whether it’s directly setting up a payment-based Internet, or conceiving and executing a parallel system, the issue is the same: by commodifying the dissemination of information, the media giants strike at the core values of freedom of speech and expression upon which this country was built. Verizon, Google and their cohorts seek to begin construction of financial roadblocks in specific lanes of the current information superhighway, allowing only those of their choosing (those wealthy enough to pay their fines) to pass, leaving the rest of us on crappy, disconnected dirt roads where the public won’t be able to find us at all. Instead, the megaconglomerates will allow access to only the most banal programming. Thousands of independent suppliers of news, art and entertainment will die. The Internet will be doomed like the mainstream media before it. It will be condemned to offer only spoon-fed baby-food news, art and entertainment, while indies like us lose our fight for survival. Clearly, Net Neutrality is vital.
The vertically integrated media conglomerates that control the traditional news and entertainment worlds are down in Washington, D.C. 24/7 spending kabillions of dollars lobbying to destroy this free, democratic and diverse worldwide platform. They want their cartel to control the Internet. They want to control a kind of NBC/CBS/ABC world with no competition. Their many overpaid “suits” do not want to have to wake up in the morning and be required to actually think. Net Neutrality on the Internet means that the media elites are forced to compete with you and me, which scares the shit out of them.
Historically, whenever new technology has become available, megaconglomerates sit back and allow the independents to take the risks and do the work to develop the technology into something with money-making potential. As soon as that technology starts to turn a profit for the independent visionaries, the megaconglomerates step in and begin to throw monkeywrenches into the works until they can co-opt the technology for themselves. For example, once videocassettes and home video became popular, the MPAA suddenly threatened that because they could be shared, videocassettes heralded the end of copyright law, and opened the doors to piracy and unmitigated pornography. They lobbied in Washington D.C., spending millions and millions of dollars to get rules preventing the media monopoly repealed. The MPAA was simply using scare tactics and false logic to intimidate the masses; once the Mom & Pop video stores were destroyed by Viacom Blockbuster, et al, home video became the largest source of profit for the megaconglomerates.
Radio, television, film and newspapers have already fallen prey to obscene media consolidation, having been converted into regurgitated, dumbed-down, controlled information at the hands of the vertically integrated media conglomerates. The Internet is our last space in which to defend our constitutional rights to free thoughts, speech and art. Support the Internet Preservation Act of 2009. Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) propose to make Net Neutrality a U.S. law. Contact your elected officials and threaten to withhold your vote if they don’t defend your interests. Let the FCC know how important this matter is to you. Post and pass along my relevant PSA and urge your friends and colleagues to do the same. Take part in the campaign to Save the Internet. Now let’s make some independent art!
Troma Entertainment, Inc. by
Lloyd Kaufman, President
Currently celebrating its 35th year, Troma is the longest running independent film production company. Kaufman is a legendary filmmaker whose filmmaking experience covers 40 years of directing iconic independent movies such as The Toxic Avenger and Poultrygeist, Night of the Chicken Dead. Kaufman is known not only for his own unique brand of cinema but for his contributions to the efforts of fledgling independent filmmakers and other artists. He is the current Chairman of The Independent Film & Television Alliance.
Anne Koester contributed to the writing of this letter.