Neutrality could divide Hollywood, Democrats


Glickman not neutral on net neutrality

WASHINGTON -- The debate over network neutrality threatens to drive a wedge between Hollywood and its traditional Democratic allies.

Proponents of government action to preserve the open character of the Internet contend that the issue is nonpartisan, but it has been mostly Democrats who have pursued it.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has made the issue a priority. The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's telecommunications and Internet subcommittee has introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which would ensconce the network neutrality principles into law.

Meanwhile, FCC members Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats, have been more vocal about the need for commission action than the Republicans on the panel.

The same day that MPAA chief Dan Glickman decried government regulation of the Internet during his ShoWest speech in Las Vegas, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee took up the issue of network neutrality. While committee chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said he doesn't think new legislation is needed, he made it clear Tuesday that net neutrality calls out for vigorous antitrust enforcement.

"If Congress stands by and does nothing, we will soon find ourselves living in a world where those who can pay can play but those who can't are simply out of luck," Conyers said. "I believe antitrust law is the most appropriate way to deal with this problem."

Democrats' zeal on the issue runs counter to what their natural allies in Hollywood seem to want as the entertainment industry appears to fear piracy more than it does the power of the big network operators.

"Today, new tools are emerging that allow us to work with Internet service providers to prevent illegal activity, and new efforts are emerging in Washington to stop this essential progress," Glickman said Tuesday.

Back in Washington, Songwriters Guild of America president Rick Carnes gave the same argument to the Judiciary Committee's antitrust task force. He said 70% of the traffic on the broadband networks comes from peer-to-peer users and that 90% of P2P traffic is illegal file-sharing.

"If a broadband network operator is considering taking technological steps to stop this occurrence, SGA would say, 'More power to you,' " Carnes said.

Damian Kulash of the band OK Go offered the opposing view.

"I'm here to ask you to protect the principles that have made the Internet great and that have made it a place where a band like mine can succeed," he told the panel.

Whether the government has the will to do that when the party holding the majority faces opposition from a key constituency remains to be seen.