Writers call for ‘fast lane’ hearings

A top writers union is demanding the Federal Communications Commission hold public hearings before moving forward on new regulations for broadband Internet providers.

The Writers Guild of America East, which represents TV, film and online writers, said in a letter on Monday that the commission needs to hear from the public to understand the impact of the potential rules, which some have feared would allow companies to cut deals to speed up some users' Internet speeds.

“It is imperative that the FCC members travel beyond Washington, D.C., to hear for themselves the voices of the American people who insist upon an Internet kept available on an equal and democratic basis for all,” union heads wrote.

Public hearings, they added, “are vitally important to our union members — the storytellers and journalists who present America to itself and the world — and to every citizen who values the freedom to speak and be heard.”

The writers union has criticized the controversial plan from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Imposing online tolls and creating “fast lanes” for some Internet traffic would only benefit major companies, the group said in a written filing last month, and could hurt writers.

Public interest groups, online activists and many Internet companies have shared the concern and argued for tough regulations that limit the so-called “paid prioritization” agreements between providers like Comcast and companies like Facebook or Netflix.

The FCC’s first window for public reaction to the net neutrality proposals closed last month, after more than 1 million comments rolled in. The next wave of comments, in response to those first messages, is due by Sept. 10.