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Why Indie Filmmakers Should Care About Net Neutrality

Why Indie Filmmakers Should Care About Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the idea that all consumers should have equal access to any legal content on the internet and that no company should get priority access to faster internet service to share content with consumers.
But on Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it would allow companies to pay service providers for faster “lanes” to provide video and other content to consumers — a threat to the idea of Net Neutrality and a ruling likely to benefit big companies such as Disney and Netflix.
Below, Dan Aronson, chief technical officer at Fandor, the streaming film service headed by Ted Hope, explains why Net Neutrality matters to filmmakers. You can read his full post here.

Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith banded together to form United Artists nearly a hundred years ago,  with hopes of controlling their own work and liberating it from the studios’ grip. Filmmakers today face similar challenges in gaining control of their work from faceless commercial entities. 

While there are, of course, more opportunities for creating work than ever before, filmmakers are also increasingly facing roadblocks to getting that work seen by the public. This is where Net Neutrality comes into play.

The past generation has seen an explosion in the volume of content consumed over the Internet, accompanied by a lack of infrastructure to support the flow of that information.

If there isn’t enough bandwidth for all of the content that a set of subscribers to an ISP (such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) require, then the ISP either has to build additional bandwidth or ration the existing bandwidth. A lack of bandwidth to support video streaming manifests for the viewer as “buffering” messages and stuttering playback. These pauses deliver a disappointing experience for the viewer and it can (and will) cause them to seek out a better option. Net Neutrality is important because it affects how and when this rationing occurs.

If viewers are already paying for content, they will be hard-pressed to pay a second time to optimize the viewing of that content.  At the same time, any content provider (including Fandor) wants to make sure that their customers have the best experience possible and don’t leave the service due to poor quality viewing. The natural progression of rationing is not pretty: those services that have greatest ability to pay will have their content favored by the ISPs.

If only filmmakers could simply make great films and have them seen by their eager fans. If only viewers could choose which films they wanted to watch and not have that choice made for them by the companies they pay to deliver content. There’s much to think about when it comes to the control of art and its flow to the public. Unfortunately, as was true a hundred years ago, power still belongs to those that have the money or resources to organize. The Internet has created an amazing opportunity to easily connect people with shared interests. In this case, it’s not just the artists who need to unite, it’s the viewers. The more informed we all are about what the challenges are, the more organized we can be to confront them. 

Read Aronson’s full post here.

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