Musicians, artists protest FCC plans

Actor Mark Ruffalo, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe and a host of other musicians and artists want the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to back off his plans to allow “fast lanes” on the Internet.

“The open Internet’s impact on the creative community cannot be overstated,” the artists wrote in a letter to Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday. 

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But the FCC’s plans to write its “net neutrality” rules, which ensure that traffic is treated equally online, would undermine that resource, they wrote.

“Allowing broadband providers to control this once-open platform shifts power away from individual artists and creators and interferes with freedom of speech and expression," they added. "Unless the Commission restores strong nondiscrimination protections based on a solid legal framework, creativity, cultural commerce and free expression will suffer."

The punk band Fugazi, filmmaker Oliver Stone, musician and artist Jello Biafra and Neutral Milk Hotel singer Jeff Mangum were also among the dozens of people to sign on to the letter, which was organized by the consumer interest group Free Press and the Future of Music Coalition.

On Thursday, the FCC will vote whether or not to move forward with the proposed rules, which would allow companies to pay Internet service providers to speed up traffic for subscribers visiting their websites.

The plan has been blasted by Democrats and liberal critics, who worry that it would empower wealthy companies at the disadvantage of nonprofit and smaller companies.

Republicans, too, have criticized the plan, which they call an unnecessary government intrusion in the free market of the Internet.  

In their letter, the artists urged the FCC to reclassify the Internet so it could be regulated like a public utility like telephone service, which would allow the commission to enact stronger rules.

The FCC's previous net neutrality rules were tossed out by a federal court earlier this year.