Legal Reality: Get Off Your Butt and Email the FCC Now

Gregory A. Piccionelli

The Place: http://www.fcc.gov/comments

The Message: “Net Neutrality Now.” Do it now, pass it on.

On Nov. 10, President Obama finally weighed in on net neutrality in a two-minute taped message from the White House. In his speech the president warned that the end of net neutrality could end the Internet as we know it.

I am beginning this month’s article with what I hope will be an unambiguous call to action for everyone in the greater online adult entertainment community to join the battle to restore net neutrality. The web address above is the location where comments to the Federal Communication Commission, the regulatory body at the heart of the net neutrality battle, can be posted.

This month marks the 10th anniversary that I have been writing articles about the law for XBIZ. But never during that time has there been what I sincerely believe to be so compelling a need for the online adult entertainment industry to close ranks, join forces and use its mighty aggregate communication clout for the greater good as there is now. Never before has there been so great an alignment of public interest and the interests of the adult entertainment community as there is now as the result of the end of net neutrality.

For those not familiar with the concept of net neutrality, it is the principle that all types of data, regardless of type, source or destination, should be transported and delivered evenhandedly by broadband providers. In essence, net neutrality means broadband providers, such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, may not favor any particular bandwidth user or type of content by increasing or decreasing data transmission speeds for particular Internet-based services or companies. Net neutrality was ended earlier this year; however, by a federal judge in a case brought by Verizon Inc. As a result, the requirement of even handed data transportation, which had been in place since the earliest days of the World Wide Web, disappeared, literally with a stroke of a pen.

Many persons, myself included, view the decades old principal of net neutrality as one of the fundamental reasons why Internet so quickly became humanity’s principal communication medium. Simply put, by requiring that all the traffic in a bandwidth provider’s pipes be treated the same way, regardless of who or what was generating the traffic, or how much traffic was involved, the web has provided a level playing field of unprecedented size, scope and intrinsic competitive fairness that has resulted in a gargantuan explosion of business models and corresponding products and services that have transformed the day-to-day lives of most Americans. And as the Internet revolution has unfolded, I think that it is important to remember that most of the transformative online products and services have been the result of new small start-up companies.

Thanks to net neutrality, modern Davids, often armed with little more than their brilliant ideas, have been able to use the Web’s level bandwidth playing field to effectively take on well capitalized Goliaths. Numerous iconic American companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, Priceline, and countless others started out just this way, as very small companies critically dependent on net neutrality to give them a fighting chance to get established.

But with the death of net neutrality there is now a clear and present threat to the expressive freedom of school and sex site alike. If not reinstated, the end of net neutrality earlier this year will endanger online communications businesses from YouTube to PornTube and impact the openness, scope, and reach of Internet communications for a broad spectrum of communicators from priests to pornographers. It will allow bandwidth providers to charge more to transmit certain types of content or to transmit it at a preferential speed. It will also legally allow them to completely refuse to transmit certain types of content altogether.

On Nov. 10, President Obama finally weighed in on the matter in a two-minute taped message from the White House. In his speech the president unambiguously, and quite correctly, warned that the end of net neutrality could end the Internet as we know it. I strongly recommend that you read the president’s message online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/net-neutrality.

The president, not surprisingly, did not address the fact that a decrease in the speed and quality of transmission of online adult content, and an increase in the cost of adult content transmission will likely be some of the first effects of the death of net neutrality. Because of this, I invite online adult entertainment entrepreneurs everywhere to consider posting a public service announcement on their websites informing visitors about the issue of the end of net neutrality and how their ability to access adult content in the future could be dramatically affected if net neutrality is not reinstated. I strongly suggest that such information be accompanied by a link to the FCC address at the beginning of this article to demand the reinstatement of a strong net neutrality policy.

I believe that the battle to reinstate net neutrality also provides the adult entertainment industry with a unique opportunity. Polls show that the general public overwhelmingly agrees with the notion of an even playing field for Internet access. Polls also show that reinstatement of net neutrality is strongly favored as the means to effectuate fair access to the web when the issue is properly explained. Because of this, I believe that broad dissemination of the kind of public service announcement I have suggested above could result in a groundswell of public opinion communicated to the FCC to reinstate a strong net neutrality policy.

In addition, an effective broad-based campaign on adult websites to petition the FCC could also go a long way to demonstrate that adult traffic can be effectively politically purposed. I have long believed that because of the popularity of adult content, the online adult industry is a vast reservoir of untapped political power that can be brought to bear to further its interests. To date, the industry has not been able to demonstrate that it can politically capitalize on the number of its consumers largely because it has not been able to mount a message campaign that would resonate with the general public while at the same time, advance the interests of large numbers of individual entrepreneurs involved. The net neutrality issue provides an unprecedented intersection of industry and public interests. I strongly suggest that the online adult entertainment business seize this moment and capitalize on the opportunity to demonstrate that it has the ability to have a political impact. Moreover, championing a popular issue also provides an opportunity to elevate the stature of the industry in the public’s eye.

If you would like assistance wording a suggested net neutrality message for your website or if you would like a model comment to submit to the FCC, please feel free to contact me at the email address below. I would be glad to provide you with either or both. Also, for more information regarding the battle over net neutrality and the importance of the issue to the adult entertainment industry, I also invite you to read my two previous articles published earlier this year on the XBIZ website, "Warning! Net Neutrality is Terminated — This is Not a Test" and "Legal Reality: Net Neutrality Update".

A Final Word

I hope you agree with me that net neutrality and not “net telco robber baron brutality” should be the policy of the U.S. If you do, I again urge you to register your opinion with the FCC at www.fcc.gov/comment. The stakes in this contest are high, not just for the future of the Internet and for everyone that uses it, but also potentially for the broader economy and, even for the preservation of freedom of expression in a world dependent on the Internet. Simply put, the outcome of this debate will affect you, profoundly, and you deserve to have your opinion heard.

This article is not intended to be, nor should it be considered to be, legal advice. If you have a legal question or other matter related to any of the topics discussed in this article, I strongly urge you to contact our office at the number below or seek the counsel of another qualified and experienced entertainment attorney familiar with the legal matters discussed in this article.

Greg Piccionelli is an experienced entertainment attorney. He can be reached at Piccionelli & Sarno at (818) 201-3955

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