End of the Open Internet? End of the Creative Economy.

Tele Operator

I’m pushing Wednesday Collective by a day to talk about something more important: the creative economy.

Specifically in regards to an open internet. Let’s not pretend I don’t have a horse in the race. I’m pursuing making a career out of being a writer on film. That requires readers be able to access my site at the same speed they could access Comcast’s in-house critics (whose love for anything associated with Comcast is, I’m sure, totally objective).

I know independent filmmakers whose core audience is based in online communities, DIY-ers who sell fashion on Etsy, models and actors who find their contracts through low-overhead sites online, thrifters whose entire life is based in refurbishing and online re-sale, painters who rely on internet commissions, bands who sell their songs through BandCamp and other community sites, and game developers whose independent sites are their lives. Each of these people has worked to build a community and a following, and has put years of research and effort into fostering their networks and connections. You don’t just hop on the internet and suddenly thousands of people are following and buying from you. You work at it.

The sprouting of these online DIY communities is based in two things – a downright awful economy that’s refused many the kind of middle class careers that were once available; and the accessibility of connecting with like-minded individuals online.

In a cable-styled, pay-for-package internet, creatives will be forced to make themselves subsidiary to specific hosts. That means painters and costume designers and developers who see 90% of their revenue back will suddenly have to pay overhead for an “online housing.”

What that usually means on today’s fairly open internet is a 30-to-70% cut of revenue is taken by the platform that hosts you. To pretend it won’t be more when people have no other choice is naive. Creatives could be seeing less than 30% of their revenue back. Compare that with the costs many put into their work, and that’s the bankrupting of the very DIY economy that has, essentially, created the livelihoods of countless of my closest friends.

It’s even worse if you run an independent website that’s crucial to your business. Think about Cable TV for a second. Could you pay to have your own channel as part of a Comcast or DirectTV package? If you can, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you can’t, proceed to freak out.

Writers may be facing the worst drop off a cliff. If independent voices are squeezed out, who will we work for? Huffington Post? You get paid with exposure, not money. IndieWire? Paid with exposure. SlashFilm? Paid with exposure.

Look, the end of net neutrality and the open internet will effect the political voices and breadth of reporting to which we’re exposed, yes – that’s a whole other argument. But it will annihilate the creative industry that has essentially saved a large portion of my generation.

I like my generation. I think we work our asses off to introduce art into the world in a way no other American generation has. That’s our point of pride. We didn’t have to go through the Great Depression. We’re just going through a fairly sizable one. We didn’t have to sacrifice everything for a World War. We just had to sacrifice a lot of things for two ill-advised ones. Yet we’re the generation that’s introduced specialized, self-sustained, niche economies of mutual interest and artistic expression into the world at a time of increasing globalism and decreasing means to create. I will not see that taken away from us. No one should see that taken away from them.

The FCC has already ruled against the open internet, despite the objections of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Netflix, and every other major and minor player out there. The only ones in favor of it are the service providers who are already paid for that service, and who will now get paid doubly – Comcast, Sprint and the like.

To think that’s the end of the fight, instead of the very beginning, doesn’t reflect the reality of this generation. We’re a stubborn bunch of jackasses when we need to be. When you call the FCC, they have an automatic recording telling you that – if you’re calling about the open internet – you should send them an e-mail instead. What a bunch of ironic dipshits.

And I’ll bet on a bunch of jackasses before a bunch of dipshits any day of the week. When’s the last time you did what an automated recording told you to do? For instance, I like to punch numbers through to the operator for any other branch of the FCC and complain there. They’ll tell me I’m in the wrong department and should send an e-mail. I’ll tell them that, before I do, let me tell them what I really think. Can I speak to a manager? Can I speak to a manager’s manager?

Call the FCC, call your congressman, call Comcast. If someone doesn’t want to call, borrow their phone, pretend to be a southern, upset, elderly Republican who’s thinking of voting Democrat for the first time in his 80-year life (I do this to John McCain’s legislative office at least twice a year, usually after a stressful day. Pairs lovely with a Chianti.) Be a newly immigrated Irish youth who imagined America as the land of opportunity but is now rethinking that image. Be an amateur-circuit racecar driver with a contract on the table for Comcast to put their name on his car – what an opportunity, but how will my moral inhibitions about the open internet effect my racing? Open internet is how my ma and pa sell their homemade jam! Call Comcast and decline the management position they offered you. What? I’m in the wrong department? Let me tell you why I can’t work for such a company anyway. Mention it to your manager.

Believe me, there’s no better way to pass the time while waiting for a train or bus or walking home. (And there’s absolutely no better way to practice for auditions or try a character out in different situations.) Be yourself and then be a dozen other people, and bother the shit out of them and tell your friends to bother the shit out of them, because I know hundreds of people whose livelihoods rely on an open internet, and I’m sure you know hundreds of people whose livelihoods rely on an open internet. It’s the secret to the sustainability of our generation through a time when our country can’t get its ass up off the ground. More importantly, I know for many of you, it is your future success at what you love that’s at stake.

Call the FCC: 1-888-225-5322 (or 1-888-CALL-FCC)
Call your Congressman
Call Comcast: 1-800-934-6489

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