Musicians: Help Keep the Internet a Democracy

The Web should not have fast and slow lanes depending on who pays more

Volume CX, No. 2February, 2010

The Future of Music Coalition, to which Local 802 belongs, is the middle of a serious campaign for “net neutrality.”

Here’s the deal. Internet Service Providers would like more control over the Internet. They’d like to be able to charge extra for priority service and also block or delay content depending on their whim.

Musicians and other activists oppose this because it’s undemocratic and could lead to a real chilling effect for grassroots Internet users.

Artists and other individuals depend on the Internet to compete right alongside the biggest companies. Without net neutrality, your Internet Service Provider could seriously slow down your access. Only large corporations could afford priority service.

And it’s not just about Internet speed. It’s about deciding which “packets” of information have priority. Those who pay more would see their data take precedence. The effect would be that regular Internet users would find that their data moves slower and less efficiently. This is unacceptable for musicians and others who rely on a fast, efficient Internet to sell their music.

But it’s even more fundamental than that. Net neutrality is about democracy. Why should large corporations have the right to priority Internet service just because they can pay for it?

There is also the matter of free speech.

When you make a phone call, Verizon (for example) is not allowed to censor your speech. The phone company is not even supposed to listen to your phone call at all.

Without net neutrality, Internet Service Providers could decide to block or slow down content that they didn’t agree with.

Does that sound like a conspiracy theory? Consider this. At the 2007 Lollapalooza festival, Pearl Jam sang some lyrics that were apparently critical of George W. Bush. Later, those lyrics were excised from the AT&T webcast of the event.

The FCC is taking this debate seriously. While it may seem obscure, the future of grassroots access to the Internet may be at stake.

To learn more or to help out, see Or contact Local 802’s political director Paul Molloy at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176