Opinion: How the U.S. Net Neutrality Repeal Could Affect Rock Artists and Fans

net neurality
(Image credit: Getty)

There are many things you can say about the current US President. Like: he’s a narcissistic misogynist who’s destroying international relations and any redeeming scraps of our positive reputation one tweet at a time.

But, whatever he may or may not be, he did take an oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The United States Constitution. Whatever may be wrong with this country, that pile of parchment is the one thing right. The beautiful system of ‘checks and balances’ was to ensure that no one body, person, or entity could have more or less power than another.

Like any implemented system, however, it is only as effective as its users and in this case, our SCROTUS (So-Called Ruler of the United States) doesn’t even know the difference between a bill and an executive order. In fact, he not only took office without knowing how the government works, he went on camera to blame the very system he swore to uphold for causing his problems. So, what does he care if the First Amendment, our Constitutional right to free speech, is breached? Because, this week, it was.

This week, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman, Ajit Pai announced that ‘net neutrality’ regulations would be repealed.

Like any excellent salesman, he made it sound as if this was in the best interest of the consumer. He said, “…For example, if broadband providers want to offer a $10 a month package where you could only access a few websites like Twitter and Facebook, they can do that today. Indeed, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently pointed out that net neutrality rules don’t prohibit these curated offerings.”

Yes, right now in the US, internet companies can offer data and speed packages but they cannot regulate content, itself.

In other words, for example: Verizon can sell a data package for $25 per month, with unlimited calls and texts, with maybe five gigabytes of online data. However, until those five gigs are used, the consumer can go wherever they want to go, surf however they like to surf, shop wherever they like to shop, write whatever they like to write, and read whatever they would like to read.

Without those regulations, Verizon can now sell those $25 packages but allow access only to Facebook, email, and one streaming service. So, if someone wants to read the news, say, they would have to pay extra. If someone wants to access a shopping site, like Amazon, they would have to pay extra.

This is not only bad news for low-to-middle income families, it could be a devastating blow to artists everywhere.

Since the technological revolution of the industry, musicians are not making the money they once could. It is almost humorous that at one time, Dire Straits made fun of how ridiculously easy it was to shake your ass, strum a few chords, and take over the world. Now, a virtuoso with ten years of training and touring has to work two jobs, do their own promotion, be their own agent, and sell their own tickets just to scrape by.

There was one real upside. Rock and metal acts denied access to the mainstream outlets, have found their own routes to market via the distribution and publicity platforms offered by the web. But, if the media monsters get their way and take full advantage of these new ‘freedoms,’ YouTube may not be free anymore. Twitter could be regulated. Merchant sites could be cut off. Record distribution pages, social media, and platforms like Bandcamp and Soundcloud can cost more or be cut off from a selective ‘packages’ altogether.

They could also ‘choke’ speeds to selective sites to make them less accessible. This means less clicks for bands’ sites, blogs, online media, or even ticket outlets. This means less content, less collaboration, less creativity, less interaction, less sales, and less money for artists and musicians everywhere. Money that used to go to artists now goes to services like Spotify and Apple Music – having to pay internet providers on top of that, will take even more revenue from the artists.

Rock and Metal comprise of over 50 percent of music sales in the United States, so fans around the world are going to feel the pain of this blow. Their American fans are going to be blindfolded and muzzled. “Hey, did you read that article? What did it say because I couldn’t afford the media package.” “Damn, I really wanted to reply to that tweet,” or “Ugh, I had to pay an extra $50 convenience fee for my ticket because I can only buy them on…”

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, shop no evil.

But, there is one light at the end of the tunnel: Not everyone in power is happy about this. Netflix, an entertainment giant, and Google are both outspoken opponents of this repeal. Netflix tweeted:

“We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order.”

Also, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that he will be one among many, including the ACLU (Attorney Civil Liberties Union), who is suing to block the finality of net neutrality rules.

This week’s battle may have ended in bloodshed, but the war is not quite over, just yet.